Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Shinji Takeda
New High Definition digital film transfer;Presented in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD;Original uncompressed Stereo PCM audio;Audio commentary by director Takashi Miike;The Making of the Katakuris – An original documentary from the film’s production featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast and crew;Interviews with the Katakuris cast members Kenji Sawada, Keiko Matsuzaka, Kiyoshiro Imawano, Shinji Takeda, Naomi Nishida, Tetsuro Tanba and Miike;Animating the Katakuris – A look at the creation of the film’s stop motion effects with animation director Hideki Kimura and Miike;Trailer and TV Spots;Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil; Booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Johnny Mains and a re-printed interview with Miike conducted by Sean Axmaker, illustrated with original stills
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If you're not already aware of it, the first thing that may come as a bit of a surprise as you're watching The Happiness of the Katakuris is that it comes to us courtesy of Takashi Miike, famied director of such shocking films as Audition and Ichi the Killer.
Dubbed as "Sound of the Music meets Dawn of the Dead," The Happiness of the Katakuris is a curious and odd little film that is pretty much unlike anything else that Miike has done. The film is a musical comedy/drama centered around a family, the Katakuris, who are trying to run a secluded country inn that is so secluded they have a hard time attracting guests. They excited welcome their first guest - then, the guest winds up dead. Each time a new guest arrives, they wind up dead. Eventually, the Katakuris become desperate to hide the seemingly disconnected deaths and begin burying their guests in hopes of not arousing suspicion and ruining their business.
The Happiness of the Katakuris includes rather crude stop-motion animation, bizarre and surreal musical numbers, zombies, an abundance of laughs, and moments that truly are like The Sound of Music.
My guess is that you'll either completely love or completely hate The Happiness of the Katakuris. Personally? I loved it.
The film also has moments of genuine heart, something I never really thought I would say about a Miike film, though one must also acknowledge that the heart usually comes at someone's expense. There's a section where the family's little girl serves as narrator - it's a rather surprising choice by Miike yet one that adds an endearing element to the film that is so screwy it's jarring.
The Happiness of the Katakuris begins with several minutes of claymation, an approach that returns at film's end. At times, it's almost as if Miike said to himself "What havent' I done in a film?" Then, he does it.
While the film has an abundance of fun and heart, rest assured that The Happiness of the Katakuris is still a Miike film with an equal abundance of violence, nudity and graphic language. Simultaneously moving and irritating, that could actually sum up a lot of Miike's works, The Happiness of the Katakuris is sort of free-for-all filmmaking that occasionally works, occasionally doesn't work, and occasionally is so freakishly bold that you simply have to admire it even if you don't like it.
With a wealth of extras tied into its Arrow Video Blu-ray/DVD release, The Happiness of the Katakuris is a must own for Miike's legion of fans and for anyone who appreciates the indie voice in Japanese cinema.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic