Monday, April 13

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Review

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Dir: David Zellner
Starring: Rinko Kikuchi, Shirley Venard, Nobuyuki Katsube, David Zellner, and Nathan Zellner

Obsession has lead people to amazing feats. It has also lead people to terrible fates. Obsession is the driving theme behind director David Zellners film “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”, which portrays the lonely existence of a Japanese woman who becomes consumed by the hope for change. With a delicate and moving narrative co-written by Nathan Zellner, assisted by a poignant performance by Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi, “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” is a strange, haunting, and surprisingly touching experience.

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is an office worker living a lonely life in Tokyo, her only companion being her pet rabbit Bunzo. One day she discovers a battered VHS copy of the film “Fargo” and mistakes it for a true story. A scene in the film, one where a bag of money is buried beneath the snow, consumes Kumikos imagination. Believing the authenticity of the buried money/treasure, Kumiko leaves Japan for North Dakota in search of the life changing fortune and acceptance from her family.

The film functions in many ways like an adventure tale, although one that substitutes the exotic locales with the frigid vastness of North Dakota and the action set pieces for calculated character focused drama. Kumiko finds a treasure map and leaves the world she is familiar with to hunt for treasure in a foreign world were she is unable to communicate. Though unorthodox for an adventure premise the film works in establishing an environment where we feel sympathetic for the lost woman and hope for her success amidst the tragic reality that defines her journey. The narrative builds moments that continue to define Kumikos unstable mental state, like a sad scene involving her dismissive and berating mother or a scene that displays the extent of her loneliness involving a misguided attempt at companionship with a sheriffs deputy (David Zellner). Its heartbreaking and downtrodden at every turn, which makes it all the more surprising that the narrative is able to keep the cheering sentiments alive as Kumiko journeys farther into the consuming depths of her fixation.

Rinko Kikuchi was exceptional in “Babel” and continues to display her talents here as Kumiko. From the beginning the film belongs to Kikuchi, as her journey moves further into the state of madness Kikuchis performance further excels. While she communicates verbally in her native language and English, its the wordless aspects of her performance, which is surprisingly a large portion of the film that produces the best emotional touches. The remaining cast portrays a mix of eccentric characters with performances that accommodate the story in nearly every aspect.

“Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter” is a fantasy adventure film and character study about harmful obsessions. Its beautifully composed and troubling to comprehend, a film that is hard to define as enjoyable yet is still completely riveting and inspired.

Montes Rating 
4.25 out of 5.00

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