(2001) dir. Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris could easily rank among the more unusual films that I have seen in recent times. A mixture of black comedy, pseudo-horror, and musical, the film was once (somewhere that I do not recall, quite accurately referred to as “The Sound of Music meets Motel Hell.” I actually fail to come up with a terse quip that nails the film so splendidly.
Miike seems to be quite the hip “underground” filmmaker of late. I don’t think I know enough hip people to qualify that assumption. He seems to produce films prolifically, that’s for sure. This is only the second of his films that I have seen, I watched City of Lost Souls last year, which was dramatically different than this film, though also pretty interesting. I don’t know that I have gathered enough experience with his work to get much of a picture of him in total.
One thing that struck me as particularly strange in this film, aside from the pop video singing asides that really seemed to emanate from nowhere, was the strange use of stop-motion animation. The film opens with a sequence that seems unsituated with the bulk of the narrative, but one that seems a metaphorical parallel perhaps? A woman eating soup in a restaurant, pulls up a weird, winged creature on her spoon. The creature pulls out her uvula and eats it, then flies off and is attacked by a crow (I think). There is more to this, but it was a week or so ago that I saw it, so I apologize for not detailing the events more.
Later in the film, out of seemingly nowhere, two live action sequences transform into claymation again. These animated sequences seem to take over in places that would have called for perhaps more complex special effects. In the first, two characters are fighting, dangling from a cliff, and in the second one Mt. Fuji erupts and pours lava down over everyone and everything. The transformation from live action to animated clay figures (whose somewhat resemble the Celebrity Deathmatch style and design) is jarring and largely unaccounted for. The break with “reality” is clear and pronounced, yet the narrative (clearly broken from a knowable reality) never wavers.
Much of this film, from the musical sequences to narrative developments, sound as bizarre to re-tell as they do to experience. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film is its unadulterated weirdness. I think the weakest thing about it is it’s more basic comedy aspect. The acting and cinematography is almost tv-bad. The acting definitely is as bad as a very bad sit-com, and there is this constant awareness of the over-acting. This may tie into Miike’s aesthetic, some trashy quality of “so bad it’s good”.
Still, for pure weirdness sake, this film has much to offer.