Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Raise your hand if you’ve seen the film Fargo. That’s a lot of hands. A lot of people know the film in question. Your humble scribe interviewed the Coen Brothers for Fargo back in 1996 and ascertained that Joel had seen coverage on cable channel Court TV of a murder case that had involved a wood chipper. That’s the “true” part of the movie. The rest is classic Coen Brothers kidnapping plots and murder mayhem.
When the Coens were shooting the film it was a lazy winter and they kept moving the production further from Fargo and north towards the Canadian border as the snow, so crucial to the look of the film, was sparse.
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is an American film, with much of the action in Japanese, about a young woman who is fascinated with the movie Fargo. She watches it on a video tape that has been viewed so many times it has horizontal electronic lines running through the image. Kumiko draws maps and measures the lines between fence poles for the scene where Buscemi buries the money in a briefcase in the snow, so intense is her desire to become one with the film. “Those are the limits of your world.”
When Kumiko’s corporate job goes south she ditches everything and travels to America to find the hidden money. Arriving in Minnesota she slowly make her way into North Dakota and confusion ensues. Natch, everyone she meets thinks Kumiko’s is rowing up the river with an oar missing.
Eventually the film ends with a metaphorical sequence where the audience has to decide whether Kumiko has died in the cold wilderness she thought she could conquer or Kumiko actually finds the money. The latter would be a total fantasy since the movie Fargo is, well, a movie. Rinko Kikuchi who has also been in Babel, Pacific Rim, and The Brothers Bloom, in addition to many Japanese films, plays Kumiko.
Director David Zellner occasionally evokes settings that might be seen in a Coen Brothers film, like a two-shot of a couple eating at a diner. One sequence depicts Kumiko ditching her pet rabbit on a subway car, a scene that echoes a similar scene where Llewyn David abandons his cat. Inside Llewyn Davis debuted in May of 2024 at the Cannes Film Festival. Kumiko had its world premiere in early 2024. It’s conceivable that Zellner saw it there and added the rabbit scene or maybe it’s just a bit of synchronicity and Zellner is a new director to watch. Often KTTH takes on a philosophical spine as Kumiko meets one character after another who, like herself, is searching for tranquility in a snowy landscape.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is currently unwinding at the Alamo Drafthouse` Vintage Park in a limited engagement.
— Michael Bergeron