Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Japan and the USA sponsored this award-winning entry to the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival (Special Jury Prize for Music Score - Sundance Film Festival 2014). Director David Zellner, along with Nathan Zellner, wrote this engrossing and utterly unpredictable screenplay about a woman who finds a VHS copy of the 1996 movie "Fargo" while beach- combing. She believes it's a treasure map that will lead her to a fortune. She becomes so fixated on that idea, nothing else matters. As she watches Steve Buscemi bury the fictional cash, she calculates the distance from the road on her TV screen, steals a North Dakota map from a library atlas and stitches the location on a piece of fabric. Then off she goes!

We watch:
  • Rinko Kikuchi is Kumiko, hot on the trail of untold riches; we quickly become aware that this gal is half a bubble off plumb. Her only friend is her bunny Bunzo, whom she keeps in her cluttered apartment. She is alienated from her family, doesn't want friends, and spits in the tea before she gives it to her boss. She can speak and read some English, but is completely amoral about money: to the regret of her boss, a cab driver and a few others she encounters.
  • Shirley Venard plays an older woman in a pickup who rescues our heroine from the icy blasts of a North Dakota winter. She instantly nixes the idea of Kumiko going to Fargo. "Too COLD!"
  • David Zellner, now wearing an actor's hat, is a sympathetic Minnesota policeman, confounded by this non-verbal woman. He tries to find someone to reason with her, mistakenly bringing her to a Chinese restaurant. You can only imagine how that proprietor reacts! "That woman is Japanese; I'm Chinese!"
I'm not sure who to thank for the wonderful cinematography (Alexander Payne is listed as one of the producers), but I was struck by the scenes in the wintry forest, on that frozen lake and out on the open plain. In my opinion, Kumiko started burning bridges when she put Bunzo on the train; she is an exasperating character who bewilders everyone in her path. We enjoyed it.

NOTE: (This review was first published in May, 2014 and distributed to a limited number of JayFlix folks but the movie is just now going into wide release.)
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Here is a preview:
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