Sunday, April 3, 2016

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

Director: David Zellner
Writers:  David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast:       Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard
Language: Japanese, English

A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Coen Brothers' film Fargo on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.

Coen Brothers made their names known worldwide with Fargo, even though their films prior to that were also absolutely great. It is not a wild theory to think that they would have really buried a case (with fake bills probably) and left it there for some enterprising film fan to find it. In that film, it was Steve Buscemi's character who buries the case in the snow-laden landscape next to a fence, only for the marker that he left to be buried in the snow. You kind of know that the protagonist Japanese lady would discover it in the end, but the ending alludes that the last sequence is a dream/vision that she is having just before her death during the severe snow-storm. The presence of her rabbit, which she had abandoned in a subway train in Japan, makes the ending not even ambiguous. I would have preferred a real ending like that as a hopeful one wouldn't have been misplaced. They had a very cheery song during the end-credits anyway, maybe to trick some viewers.

Kumiko is kind of a social outcast who doesn't have any friends and is kind of unhinged. Her only hobby is finding treasures and that is how she stumbles upon the hidden VHS copy of Fargo. One can draw some existential interpretation of the movie and even some religious ones. People who take films too seriously, like me, could find it rather disturbingly close to home. It is basically a un-romanticized version of 'Amelie'. First half of the film is set in Japan and the second half in USA as she travels to 'The New World', looking for the treasure, like a Spanish Conquistador. There she meets some rural characters that could be described as stereotypical, but that can be excused because of the nature of the film, and also, stereotypes exist for a reason. 

It is very different and a great watch. It is an international film with names like Alexander Payne attached to it. The film is based on an Urban Legend related to the death of Takako Konishi, who died of hypothermia in outside Detroit Lakes, in Minnesota. The film made its debut at the Sundance film festival and has been received very positively. Would love to hear the reaction of Coens to it.

Rating: 4/5