The Happiness of the Katakuris Blu-ray Review
The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead?
Touted as a cross between those two disparate genres and arguably Takashi Miike's most audacious work, it blends zombies and musicals; live-action and clay-mation, to dubious acquired-taste effect.Undoubtedly film scholars could argue ad nauseum about the cultural commentary going on behind scenes of Katakuris, which pokes fun at a whole slew of film cliches and genres, from the obvious musicals and zombie movies to romantic comedies, family dramas and even murder mysteries. It's obviously all aimed squarely at the West, with Hollywood the prime target of Miike's unique brand of depraved-but-heartwarming sentiments. Unfortunately, despite these intentions, the end product still remains a rather impoverished affair, wearing its non-existent budget on its sleeve as it supplants a very basic story with a trio of distinct animated segments that save the budget from exceeding the price of a bucket of KFC. That almost nothing happens across the entire movie is also something which may surprise.The playful tale of a run-down bed and breakfast - in desperate need of customers - having to contend with a seemingly inexplicable spate of deaths from each successive visitor, simply doesn't deliver on the potential of the extended opening animated sequence, which would suggest that far more interesting things could be happening later on. They do, in the last 5 minutes, with the rest of the movie almost devoted to padding what was essentially an intriguing little animated short into a feature runtime. It's fair enough to regard the imaginative claymation segments as being the highlight in the piece, but when the sections where the cast break into song come as a relief, you have to start to wonder about the effectiveness of Miike's endeavour.
Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of the film boasts suitably faithful video which presents the movie in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen.
There's no doubt that the budget to Miike's piece shines through the cracks of most every scene in this feature, however most of the blame should be levelled at the original source material rather than Arrow's presentation, and the most obvious way to discern the good from the bad is to inspect the claymation sequences, which are undoubtedly the best moments in the piece. Finely-observed with precise texturing and layering, if only the rest of the film was this impressive, the presentation could have earned itself a demo score. Unfortunately there's simply nothing demo-worthy about the rest of the material, which is distractingly soft throughout and features some truly washed-out colours to boot. It could have easily been shot a decade or more earlier, and struggles to escape a very small-scale low-budget feel across the entire runtime.
The accompanying uncompressed LPCM 2.0 track is a similarly faithful offering too.
Whilst it doesn't do anything particularly engaging, the uncompressed LPCM track is in the movie's original Japanese and does a solid job authentically reproducing the material here. It was never going to offer up surround-driven, effect-tastic, bombastic speaker-fodder to shake up your living room with, and instead we get the usual key facets covered: clear dialogue, sporadic effects (more inventive in the animated segments, although still evident in other parts) and decent musical elements. It's that last aspect which provides the most lively part of the aural accompaniment which, whilst innately restricted, still doesn't let the side down.
As we’ve come to expect from Arrow, there’s a superb extras package which comprehensively covers all the bases.
Kickstarted by an Audio Commentary from Miike himself, we also get a solid documentary for the piece, The Making of the Katakuris, which goes into the production and provides the usual plethora of behind the scenes footage and soundbites from the cast and crew, and a selection of Interviews from 6 key cast members as well as Miike himself. Then there’s a separate Featurette dedicated to the claymation elements, Animating the Katakuris, as well as a selection of Trailers and TV Spots, along with the usual impressive booklet and imaginative reversible cover sleeve.
Blu-ray VerdictWith a clear cult following devoted to this 'classic', even those who think they are familiar with the eclectic menu that the director's film history offers should probably test the waters before adding this to their Miike collection.
Despite the questionable effectiveness of one of Miike's strangest endeavours, Arrow's Blu-ray release of the same is a very impressive package.
Arrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release boasts strong video and audio and the kind of packed-to-the-hilt selection of extras which we've come to expect from the meticulous company. Fans will certainly lap up everything on offer with this release; undoubtedly the best the niche title has ever seen.
You can buy The Happiness of Katakuris on Blu-ray here
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