THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS
Release Date: 2001
Directed by Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike is known for fairly controversial films. Whether it be the ultraviolent Ichi the Killer or the influential cult horror hit Audition, it's one thing after another.
Most of his films play to a very niche audience (especially in America, where he's generally unknown) but this one really strikes into unknown territory. Despite his penchant for the gory and violent of cinema, this film (a remake of a so-so Korean film called The Quiet Family) is nothing short of one of the best cinematic expressions of joy and happiness.
Let me open with the first video I can find, and we'll work our way up from there. The follow: one of most abstract title sequences you can hope to ever find.
This film stars the Katakuri family, all four generations worth. The father, Masao, decides in the middle of his life to give up his job at the department store and move his family into the country where they'll start a bed and breakfast. Going with him is his wife Terue, his two children, wild child Masayuki and wide-eyed divorcee Shizue (with her young daughter Yurie) and his father, Jinpei (Ojisan to you!).
Once there, they realize that it helps to build where people come, as weeks pass without guests. Part of that, some of them believe, is the inauspicious omen that comes over them, cursing their house to suffer.
Spirits look up when one dark and stormy night they get their first guest. However, when they go to check on him the next morning, they find a shocking surprise:
Deciding that it'd be better to hide the body of their guest than report his suicide, they hide the body. However, a string of guests that meet similarly grizzly fates push the family to the breaking point -- with song and dance!
Other highlights include the daughter Shizue falling in love with the charismatic Richard Sagawa, who threatens to intrude on the family and expose their secrets.
As tensions mount, it is up to Masao to keep his family together, with the help and support of his wife. In the following scene, they discuss where to move their mass grave site to in order to avoid the attention of highway construction and the now-suspicious police.
Things keep growing stranger all the way to the end, like this scene when the young girl Yurie stumbles upon the graves that have been exposed by a storm and an earthquake.
The tragedy of this story is this: everyone should see this film, but nobody has. I found it almost entirely by accident, and all of my closest friends have seen it, but I've never come across another person that has. Furthermore, the DVD is no longer available to buy new online for anything resembling a reasonable price.
THANKFULLY it is available through netflix, which by this day and age most people either have or can mooch off a friend's account. Because, to be quite honest, I don't think anyone's life could be complete without this touching, heartwarming, awesomely entertaining musical extravaganza.
But enough hyperbole! WATCH IT!