The Film (4/5)
I found the film's of Takashi Miike much in the same way many people did, through his 1999 film Audition. The year was 2001, and word had spread like wildfire about Miike's early masterwork, and needless to say I had to see it. I drove the 45 minutes to my nearest Best Buy (remember when Best Buy had an awesome and eclectic selection), and managed to snag the American Cinematheque DVD alongside the director's City of Lost Souls, and another earlier Japanese horror flick Evil Dead Trap (the DVD that would introduce me to Synapse Films.
I was immediately floored by Miike's work, and by Japanese horror cinema in General, and began the process of seeking out more. But there was something about Miike in particular. His work was rarely in the horror genre, but he had a strange, twisted sensibility, and he had some gory delights that pleased the splatter buff within me. Over the next couple of years I picked up the Dead or Alive trilogy, his gonzo as Hell yakuza flick Ichi the Killer, Fudoh, and more.
In 2003, I was taking film production and history courses at my local community college, and a guy I took classes with was already very knowledgeable about world cinema, and cinema history, but most especially Asian Cinema, started talking about a new Miike film, one that was more bizarre, with a different lighter sensibility than any of the films I had seen previously. it was a mix of comedy, family film, musical, and horror. It would go on to be one of my favorites from the prolific director, that film Happiness of the Katakuris, would show Miike in a year where he had already make 8 films takes a simple film premise (The film itself was a remake of the S. Korean film the Quiet Family), and turn it into something wildly bizarre, and an absolutely joy to watch.
I came to refer to films like Katakuris later as Japanese Kitchen Sink cinema, as they had everything thrown into them, and then some. But there is more to it than that. The Katakuris Family of the film felt real and lived in. Even when watching it for the first time, with all the bizarre goings-on, you felt that these were a group of people that had lived a lifetime with each other. This is a testament to the wonderful cast who realize their characters in such a way that none of them feel like caricatures, and also Miike who creates less of a narrative than a small fishbowl world for the Kakakuris to dwell within.
As stated earlier, the film's premise is simple. The patriarch of the Katakuris family finds himself fired before his retirement. He takes what money they have, and buys a Bed and Breakfast out in the Japanese countryside in land he is told will have a highway run adjacent to it. That promise is not fulfilled, and the B&B is only utilized by either suicidal or dying customers who the Katakuris must then dispose of, as not to get a reputation.
Arrow Video presents Takashi Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. The transfer looks truly magnificent with excellent fine detail, excellent colors, and deep blacks. There is a healthy level of film grain permeating the image, that is never intrusive.
The audio is a similar excellent LPCM Japanese stereo mix that takes the film's sound and does wonders with it. Everything from the dialogue, to the score, to the film's more musical moments sounds wonderful here.
Arrow have put together a wonderfully elaborate extras package for their Blu-ray release of Happiness of the Katakauris including multiple commentary tracks, on-camera interviews with the director and members of the cast, a behind the scenes documentary, trailers, TV spots, featurettes, and much more.
One of Takashi Miike's finest efforts (and that is saying something as the man is prolific and an absolute master), Arrow Video brings Takashi Miike's Happiness of the Katakuris to Blu-ray with stunning results. The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. If you are a fan of the director of the film, I doubt you will top this release anytime in the next decade. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.