Mr Katakuri lost his job as a shoe salesman, but in the depths of his despair, he had an idea: open a guesthouse in the Japanese countryside to cater for tourists. It won't be long before a new road is opened, and Mr Katakuri is hoping that will bring customers. His whole family are hired to help out, but business is quiet until a depressed loner arrives and unfortunately commits suicide in his room. The Katakuris decide to hide the body, but this is only the beginning of their problems...
Prolific director Takashi Miike emerged in the nineties as an idiosyncratic talent to watch, and this bizarre musical, scripted by Kikumi Yamagishi, shows no signs of him directing something ordinary. The songs range from sugary ballads to a sort of rock opera, and usually crop up in the most unlikely places: for instance, when the Katakuris discover the first body, they begin dancing dramatically and screaming along in time with the music!
The guesthouse makes Fawlty Towers look like The Ritz, what with all the bodies piling up and general bad luck that follows the family around. There are six of them, the highly strung father and mother, the irascible grandpa, the son who's just been released from prison, and the daughter who was made pregnant while at school age and has a little daughter of her own. Not forgetting the pet dog. They all yearn for the quiet, ordinary life, but have to accept that things don't always go to plan - if at all.
The important thing here is that no matter what life throws at the Katakuris, they remain optimistic, whether in the face of murderers, con men, or their own guilt at covering up the deaths that follow them around. Hopes and dreams are paramount in getting through life, and it's their determination to look on the bright side that makes them engaging. When the daughter falls in love at first sight with a Japanese man who claims not only to be in the U.S. Navy, but also a member of British royalty, she believes every word he says, even when it increasingly becomes clear he's talking rubbish.
The musical numbers are all the more amusing for being performed by actors with limited talent for dancing, and some of their singing isn't much better. To brighten things up, there are animated sequences of stop-motion puppets, when live action would prove to be too expensive, one presumes - a precarious fall over a cliff, or the explosive finale. The philosophising at the end makes me certain the filmmakers are sincere in their message, but the weird, irreverent handling, while refreshing, makes it difficult to take seriously; in spite of its darker elements, it feels light-headed. Also with: dancing zombies.
Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.