Takashi Miike is an inventive horror & gangster film director whose Visitor Q is the best, strangest, happy-go-lucky psycho killer film ever made. I've seen several of his films by now, mostly yakuza films full of violence but with no stars the equal of Beat Takeshi, & none of the others bowled me over like Visitor Q, but the majority have something good in them, & a few brush close to genius if only of a kitschy kind.
He really goes off on a tangent with The Happiness of the Katakuras, about a family that has invested in a failing bed & breakfast on the hinterland side of Mount Fuji, & the few almost-customers they ever get end up dead. But it's not a Japanese Motel Hell, it's just an unlucky family living under a curse -- all the while trying to keep a stiff upper lips & singing about it!
It's a horror musical. The dance & song sequences are charming stuff. Exuberant rather than horrific, it was odd to see so many elements of a horror thriller given a joyful upbeat context. The final number is a congratulations-you're-going-to-die tune, a great summation to the film's if-life-gives-you-lemons attitude.
In Visitor Q we learn that the family who slays together stays together. Katakuras is much more innocent & naive, but it has the same attitude of family sticking together through thick or thin. This is not always Miike's theme by any means, as in Audition he just goes for visceral horror, but if one looks deep enough into even the most sociopathic gangsters of his yakuza films, there's some little evidence of the humor & hope manifest in Katakuras and his greatest film Visitor Q.
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