Takashi Miike is probably the most prolific and prominent Japanese filmmaker to emerge in the direct-to-video era. He has a reputation for over-the-top violence, earned chiefly by Ichi the Killer and Audition, but he’s not confined to that; just check out his sentimental The Bird People of China. Though he adopts different styles, one of his visual signatures follows the crime films of Takeshi Kitano in favoring unblinking shots while various activities occur more or less within our sight, thus creating tension between this formal impassivity and the frenetic or horrific content.
Happiness of the Katakuris is one of his oddest movies, and that’s saying something. It doesn’t really have over-the-top violence; instead, it relies on morbid and grotesque humor as it tells the story of an inn where the guests keep dying freakishly, and the family keeps burying them to avoid bad publicity. By the way, it’s a musical. Brilliantly, some of the scenes go into Claymation in order to convey what couldn’t be done as well with special effects. Although I find this movie too long, and the musical numbers not well-staged, it has passages of delightful creativity and conveys an exuberance and joy we don’t often see.