We May Never Know What "Kumiko" Found Review

I am like a Spanish Conquistador.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2015) sounds like a cineaste's dream movie. The titular Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) finds a VHS copy of Fargo (1996) hidden in a beachside cave and takes its "True Story" prologue on face value, believing that just under a million dollars is hidden along some Minnesota highway. Beyond this little plot detail, however, one need not know very much about Fargo. In fact, if you've never seen the Coen Brothers classic, you can watch Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter without hurting too much in the way of spoilers. This is, for those who entered (as I did) with the logline "A Japanese woman takes the film Fargo to be true and uses it to search for buried treasure" in their heads, slightly annoying. I say slightly because if you're the sort of person who likes quirky, indie-spirited films (is that redundant?), you're probably the sort that will take to this piece of melancholia with aplomb. This is not a piece of fanboy fiction, but that's alright.

Kumiko (Kikuchi) is a office lady at a firm of some kind. It isn't important to know exactly what they do. All you need to know is that it's tedious, her boss is kind of a jerk, and she's clearly disconnected from everyone there. In fact, she's just about disconnected from everyone. Her mother sees life as a dilemma between living at home with her or else getting married as soon as rings can be arranged. Kumiko's true destiny is as an adventurer and treasure seeker. At the end of one such adventure, she uncovers a clue, a VHS tape of an American film (ostensibly a work of non-fiction), that shows a large briefcase of cash being left unaccounted for on a roadside. With care, she gleans what details she can from the film which are (1) a roadside with barbed wire and (2) near Fargo. When her boss subtly implies that Kumiko should quit or will be fired, she steals the company credit card and flies herself out to America to continue her search.

This is a rather sad film well made by director/co-writer David Zellner and co-writer Nathan Zellner (the Zellner brothers). Kumiko's loneliness and detachment is painful to watch and easy to understand. Her mother is needy, her job is terrible, and she's escaped all of that by entering her (possibly) fantasy world. That fantasy element is possibly the one false note in the film, dealt with abruptly at beginning and end without much data to form an opinion. Still, Zellner films it all quite beautifully and the score from "The Octopus Project" is a neat homage to Fargo's score while keeping its own vibe. It would have been nice if there were more features on this since it is so richly unexplained--the Japanese filming, where their idea came from, why Fargo, and what they hoped to say by it. All we get is the film and bits off cutting room floor, so it's just up to you on how to read the film.

Bonus features

Deleted and alternate scenes.

"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" is on sale June 30, 2015 and is not rated. Drama. Directed by David Zellner. Written by David Zellner, Nathan Zellner. Starring Rinko Kikuchi.

Jason Ratigan • Staff Writer

A lawyer-turned-something-else with a strong appreciation for film and television.  He knows he can't read every great book ever written, but seeing every good movie ever made is absolutely doable.  Check out his other stuff on Wordpress.


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