The Coen brothers “Fargo” has been a popular film since its release in 1996—it’s even spawned a critically acclaimed TV show—and the new film “Kumiko the treasure hunter” is certainly an intriguing riff on that movie, taking a tiny part of it—a suitcase full of money buried in a snow bank—and creating its own fully-developed tale of delusion, obsession and greed. Kumiko is a lonely “Office Lady” living on her own in modern-day Tokyo. Her mother calls from time to time, but mostly to find out if she’s found a man to marry yet. Her co-workers keep their distance from her, but then, she’s not always the best employee either, especially to her boss, who seems to do very little all day. As the film opens, Kumiko, wandering the shore of the ocean, is on a treasure hunt. But instead of gold, she finds, in a nearby cave, carefully buried in the sand, a VHS tape. She takes it home and watches it. It is the movie “Fargo”. As anyone familiar with that film will recall, it involves kidnapping, murder and money. But the part that matters to Kumiko is when the money is placed in that aforementioned snow bank. She takes seriously the claim, stated at the beginning of “Fargo”, about it being based “on a true story”. She makes her own map, carefully sewn on a piece of white cloth copied from her TV screen. I won’t give away how she finds herself in Minnesota, seeking the almost legendary town of Fargo, meeting a series of kindly, if somewhat baffled, Americans. The culture clash is sometimes amusing, and the director, David Zellner, unlike the Coen brothers, eschews random violence in favor of quirkiness and mystery. “Kumiko” held my attention in many ways, and it also disturbed me, as I tried to understand this young woman. Is the movie merely a portrait of mental illness? Is it about the beauty of the inner life? Is it about how lonely and disconnected people can easily sink further into their own world? Or is about all these things? These are all questions that hang over “Kumiko” and that give it its mysterious and memorable character.
(This movie is unrated, but it would probably be rated PG. It is only available on a Blu-ray edition.)
Posted by: David