5-Word 365 #011 – The Happiness of the Katakuris

The Happiness of the Katakuris

Didn’t understand it. Don’t care.

In order to make this review-a-day lunacy even remotely plausible, I have realised that I need to take advantage of my commute. I work a full time job when I’m not doing this, but in order to get to my full time job I need to spend 90 minutes on a bus every morning, and the same to get home in the evening. Praise be to the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster then for the invention of the laptop. Now I can watch a flick on the bus; it’s not as if I need to look where I’m going after all.

Today, I discovered a rather distinct but oddly undramatic flaw in this grand plan of mine. I started watching Takashi Miike’s nutty opus only to see that the English subtitles were below the edge of the frame on my screen. And I don’t speak Japanese.

Now this is not necessarily a deal-breaker for me. A similar thing happened when I, um, acquired District 13 a few years ago. The version I had had the original French dialogue and no subtitles at all. If you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m going to say, but here it is anyway: it did not matter a bit. With an action film like that, all you need to do is let it flow across your eager little eyeballs and enjoy the ride. So the question is, does the same logic apply to Happiness of the Katakuris? The question should be, does any logic even remotely trouble Happiness of the Katakuris? The answers are yes, and not a hope in hell.

Disclaimer: All that follows is based on the fact that I don’t know what anyone was saying to each other. You can pretty much follow the story just from the visuals, but there is going to be a lot of nuance that I was just not picking up on. Even with the language barrier however, this is probably the happiest I have ever been at the end of a film. I spent the entire trip home tonight with a big stupid grin on my face. I’m not kidding, this is 110 minutes of sheer joyfulness and playfulness and I love it.

This may be less than accurate, but I believe the story is about a family (called Katakuri, natch) who have left the city for financial reasons and picked up this actually quite nice guesthouse up a mountain. They don’t get a lot of guests, and Grandpa is a dead shot when it comes to taking out crows with sticks. And there was a weird little demon thing that hid in a woman’s soup bowl and stole her tonsil when she screamed at it, then flew away. It looked like it had wandered in from Jan Svankmajer’s version of Alice in Wonderland*. I really don’t know what that bit was about. But anyway, things aren’t going too well for the Katakuris, then one night a guest commits suicide. Panicking, they decide to bury this poor soul out back. Then a Sumo and his girlfriend show up, and die. So they get buried too. Then more and more guests start randomly showing up. Then the mountain happens to be a volcano, which erupts and the family and their house get washed down to a beautiful Alpine valley. This is all accompanied by the most jaw-droppingly awful song and dance numbers ever recorded on film. Awful from a technical perspective anyway, and deliberately so, but I defy you not to be dying to get up and dance with them. One of the songs even comes with karaoke lyrics, unfortunately in Japanese.

I wanna dance!

Miike knocked this one out in the same year as Family, Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer (and a few more probably – the man gets around), and the tone couldn’t be any more different from those films. Like Ichi, this isn’t an original story though. It’s based on a straight black comedy from Korea called The Quiet Family, which I have not been able to get my hands on yet. Those of you who read this site regularly may know that I have an urge to watch an original work before any remake, but I just couldn’t wait any longer. Katakuris has been burning an unwatched hole in my DVD collection for too long.

I could keep writing about this film all night – I haven’t even started on Top Gun Guy! – but I need to get this posted so that I can start watching it again, this time on the big television. Yes, with subtitles.


*Alice, from 1988. If you ever want to scare the shit out of your kids, show them that.


  1. Paragraph Film Reviews · January 12, 2012

    Done it again dude, one of my favourite crazy Japanese films… I picked up the one this was based on (The Quiet Family) but have yet to watch it and compare. Don’t know how many times I’ve watched the clay-mation part alone, just because it’s awesome.

    On a side note, not a big fan of Miike’s output. As you say, he did this with 2 other films in one year – wish he’d just focus on making a masterpiece every year instead of several average films. He’s got a crazy-mad filmography now though.

    • Paragraph Film Reviews · January 12, 2012

      Also, pick up Survive Style 5+ if you want an even madder film to watch… it’s Japanese, mental, and has Vinnie Jones in it!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Ryan McNeely · January 12, 2012

        Vinnie Jones in a mental Japanese flick? Sold!
        You’ve got a good point there about Miike. He has good days and bad days. I’m willing to watch anything he puts his name to though; it might not be very good but it’ll certainly be uniquely his. I hear he’s finally nailed it with 13 Samurai. Have you seen that yet?
        I’ll be looking out for your Quiet Family review!

      • Paragraph Film Reviews · January 12, 2012

        I sat through a fair few Miike films at uni and now I definitely pick and choose, some are beyond comprehension, but before you geta cult following like him, you’ve got to be doing something right! Here’s my reviews on the two mentioned:


        And don’t hold your breath for a Quiet Family review; there’s about 300 films on my to-watch list, and my Mrs doesn’t much like subtitles… I know… FAIL!

      • Ryan McNeely · January 12, 2012

        Doesn’t like subtitles?! That sounds like grounds for divorce to me!
        Thanks for the links, I’ll check those out as soon as.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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