Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Kumiko the Treasure Hunter: Gone to Fargo
about the Minnesota accent must get lost when translated into Japanese, at
least judging from one unhappy office worker’s strange obsession. She is
convinced the briefcase full of cash buried in final scenes of the Coen
Brothers’ Fargo is really out there,
waiting to be discovered. Her strange delusion will eventually take her to the
fateful North Dakota border in the Zellner Brothers’ Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (trailer here), which opens this
Wednesday in New York.
is not clear whether Kumiko’s mania has crowded out other aspects of her life
or whether it has grown to fill the pre-existing void in her gloomy
existence. Regardless, her work as an
“Office Lady” (fetching coffee and dry cleaning for her boss) remains
profoundly unfulfilling. That she is conspicuously older than her bimbo
colleagues is a fact not lost on her, either. Her only solace comes from her
pet rabbit Bunzo and watching a well-worn VHS copy of Fargo, constantly scribbling notes that only make sense to her
Kumiko finally reaches her breaking point at work, she absconds with the
corporate card and books a flight to Minneapolis. This is not a well planned
trip. Kumiko carefully collects all her Fargo
material, but neglects to consider adequate winter gear. Yet, as she makes
her way north, several locals will try to look out for her, as best they can.
The wider world is not really such a cold place in Treasure. Kumiko just has trouble fitting into it. That forgiving
spirit is one reason why it is such an oddly moving film.
Treasure is releasing too early in
the year for short attention span Academy members, because Rinko Kikuchi
seriously merits consideration for her second Oscar nomination playing Kumiko.
It is quiet work, but absolutely devastating in its power. She vividly projects
the acute sensitivity and compulsive focus that make Kumiko more closely akin
to outsider artists than any routine nutter. David Zellner (the director and
co-writer half of the Zellner filmmaking tandem) is also quite funny yet also
rather touching, in an admirably understated way, as the sheriff’s deputy who
tries to help Kumiko. Bunzo is cute too.
is too bad nobody from Fargo signed
on for a cameo, because there is an obvious place where the Zellners could have
put them. Evidently, when you land a hit HBO series, you quit caring about
independent film. Still, fans of the Coen Brothers’ film will appreciate all
Whether or not it qualifies as a
“co-production,” Treasure is
certainly the product of extensive American and Japanese collaboration, shot
entirely on location in either Tokyo or Fargo country. Representing delicately
accomplished work from the Zellners and a deeply poignant lead performance, the
resulting film has a sweetly sad vibe that really distinguishes from the field.
Recommended with considerable affection, Kumiko
the Treasure Hunter opens this Wednesday (3/18) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Rinko Kikuchi, Zellner Brothers