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2001, 113 min., Japan

MPAA Rating: R
US Rights: American Cinematheque Presents/Vitagraph Films (Japanese Outlaw Masters)

Director: Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike's, The Happiness Of The Katakuris is a quirky, black comedy. Think Shallow Grave meets the Japanese classic cult movie Crazy Family - and now imagine it with songs, dance numbers and animated sequences. There hasn't been anything like this before on film.

Loosely based on the Korean black comedy movie Quiet Family, this extraordinary genre-blending remake tells the story of a modern dysfunctional family and their shared dream of opening a guest house in the country. Despite all their best efforts, the guest house has the unfortunate habit of attracting guests who all turn up dead in the morning. The Katakuris, just regular folks, do their utmost to make a success of the place despite all these setbacks -- and audiences will be rooting for them to succeed even as they keep planting stiffs out in the grove behind the house.

For despite its bizarre horror-movie story line, the movie is an uplifting tale of ordinary people battling against the odds. The Katakuris don't kill any of their guests (well, not intentionally). They're just normal people trying to get by, even as fate throws more and more dead bodies at them. Because at the end of the day, nothing kills business at a hotel quicker than rumors of a death in a room... Especially if it's the very first guest who ever stayed there.

In tune with its quirky story, the film mixes movie genres and styles with abandon. Some sequences are filmed using claymation. As in a musical, the characters suddenly burst into song, or spontaneously start dancing as the mood takes them. There's even an incredible subplot with a Japanese conman who claims to be the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth of England (even more incredibly, this character is based on a real person).

The climax features a bizarre Singing in the Rain style dance routine, where even the corpses get up from their graves to join in the splashy hoofing. The soundtrack is packed with perky, up-tempo numbers that will have viewers singing along.

The movie features an all star cast chosen for their acting and their ability to carry a tune. Mr. Katakuri is played by

Kenji Sawada, a star from his days with the rock band The Tigers and actor in classic films such as The Man who Stole the Sun and Paul Schrader's Mishima, Stage musical and movie star Keiko Matsuzaka (Sting of Death, Ping Pong) plays his long-suffering wife. Young actress Naomi Nishida (Nabi's Love) plays the daughter, while handsome young actor Shinji Takeda (Gohatto, Pulse, Tokyo Eyes etc.) takes on the role of the useless son. Charismatic rock star Kiyoshiro Imawano plays the slightly foreign-looking conman in a naval uniform.

The Happiness of the Katakuris is a constantly surprising entertainment. A black comic musical that will have viewers cheering for the Katakuri family as they battle against the odds -- and the bodies. With shades of EATING RAOUL and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW..


Not available to buy at this time.


"THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, a delirious splatter-musical that imagines what might have happened if the Von Trapp family had wandered into DAWN OF THE DEAD, may be this year's supreme MASTERPIECE."

-- Mike D'Angelo, Time Out New York

"The closest the JAPANESE TERRORMONGER has come to family entertainment."

-- Dennis Lim, The Village Voice

Notes Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives

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