Happiness of the Katakuris
We've talked about Miike on this forum before, but I thought I'd point out that this film is available in a great Region 1 format.
Prepare yourselves - a Miike musical!
It's probably my favorite film of his now, and in light of the raves Chicago is getting, provides a much more enticing musical experience than that film.
A relatively small film, about a family that buys a bed & breakfast house, in the hopes of a new roadway creating a goldmine of opportunity for them.
Miike films have a layer of inappropriateness about them, and in the case of the Katakuris, it's the context in which happy, bubbly musical & dance numbers are performed. Always in the midst of something nasty.
If you've liked his work, in spite of its disturbing themes and images, this is worth checking out. Miike with a much different pallette, amazing execution, great performances, and a level of camp that takes his dark humor to a new level.
Funny that you mention this, I'm seeing it at the Jameson Whiskey Film Festival in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon. I'm pretty sure this is that wacky preview for a cannibal musical on the Audition DVD. I'll let you know what I think.
I just got back from seeing this. I have to say, my impression is pretty much a resounding but still completely apathetic "nyeh...". It is an enjoyable movie, and I laughed a bunch of times. It is facetious and funny. It is also incredibly obvious, and a satire of musicals (in particular, the Japanese musical) not far beyond what you'd find in Cracked. There are so many better films that have made fun of musicals (which, in itself, is a pretty cheap target) like The Producers, or Everyone Says I Love You, and which don't have such smarmy, snickering-into-your-fist direction as Happiness, and are better filmed and choreographed to boot.
Perhaps a musical satire is unique in Japan, but from an American perspective, Happiness is sloppy, obvious and light-weight. You sit through it, you laugh at the wacky, ebullient Japs and dimly wonder if this sort of enthusiastic tackiness alloyed with fetus angels, insects crawling up nostrils and sumo kiddy rapists is what happens when you nuke a country - then you remember Troma and decide your film crit thesis just got flushed down Lloyd Kaufmann's toilet-like navel.
I remember when I watched the Audition commentary, my thought was exactly: "This guy directed that?" The Happiness of the Katakuris just double-underlines that impression, and makes me think that either Takashi Miike got saddled with an absolutely brilliant writer and producer for Audition, or that his film making in Audition was so advantageously sloppy that smart people are giving his one-dimensional gross-out sex thriller's intelligence way too much credit. I still think Audition is a brilliant movie, but if the Happiness of the Katakuris is typical of Miike's work, it is probably his swan song. You're right, the performances are great - but the execution is pretty lackluster.
Don't get me wrong, I liked it. The audience was filled with Dublin's jap geeks, the booze was flowing and everyone was receptive to the movie's humor. But I can't imagine ever really wanting to see this movie again, or even really liking it as much as I did if I'd seen it on video, and it is pretty distressing to watch while you still have the completely nebulous, multi-layered narrative of Audition seared into the back of your id. I wouldn't recommend it to people who liked Audition.
Interesting response - you liked it yet found so much *not* to like in it.
It would help me out a lot if you could cite some examples where Miike was sloppy. I mean that in a good way, I'd really like to hear what you have to say in more detail.
I suppose I disagree that being obvious is a bad thing. It's a very small film. Besides the scene in the plaza, you have the house and the lake. Granted, I went into the film blind, so I hadn't heard a single thing. Didn't know it was a musical, for example. Maybe I was in shock.
Sadly, I'm approaching fanboy-levels of joy when I get to see a new Miike film. Makes it hard to be critical, as I tend to enjoy all of his work (excluding the claymation-bullet time-cockfighting in City of Lost Souls). While Audition may be the *best* film of his that I've seen, it's not my favorite. Ichi, Katakuri, and <whisper>Visitor Q</whisper> probably fight for that crown.
Maybe I'm just bored with American cinema at the moment, and am enjoying seeing film from a different perspective. Aside from quite a few French (Man Bites Dog! Yay!) films, my exposure to all of it is fairly recent.