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  Kumiko the Treasure Hunter The Impossible FindBuy this film here.
Year: 2014
Director: David Zellner
Stars: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Kanako Higashi, Ichi Kyokaku, Ayaka Ohnishi, Mayuko Kawakita, Takao Kinoshita, Yumiko Hioki, Natsuki Kanno, Brad Prather, Earl Milton, Madde Gibba, Phil Hall, Ravi Jasthi
Genre: Drama, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a lonely office worker who lives on her own in a small apartment with her pet rabbit Bunzo, doting over the creature but unable to make a human connection with anyone around her. One day she was out treasure hunting, a hobby of hers, which had led her to a beach; following her map she wound up in a cave by the shore, and to a large-ish stone which she lifted to discover an old VHS cassette underneath. Intrigued, she brought it home and put it into her player, but it had been too damaged by the damp and only showed static. Undeterred, and feeling this had to be a sign no matter what, she dried it out over the course of the next few days...

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter threw up all sorts of questions about the nature of fiction and what fictions we accept as true for whatever reasons, but in the main it was a sad tale about a doomed woman inspired by another doomed woman who had been all too real. She was Takako Konishi, and she had committed suicide in Minnesota back in 2001 which offered her a curious afterlife when she became the subject of an urban myth telling of how she had travelled to the snowy regions around the town of Fargo, prompted by the Coen Brothers movie of the same name. In that, Steve Buscemi's terminally unlucky character had buried a case full of thousands of dollars planning to return for it later.

He didn't, and for that reason in the myth told us that Takako thought she could find the money herself. Why? Because the Coens had included a message at the beginning of their picture saying it was based on a true story, so obviously this naïve Japanese woman had believed it, then given up everything to travel to the United States on a treasure hunt. The actual yarn in real life was a lot less quirky, as she had simply travelled there to be with the married businessman she had fallen in love with; it didn't work out, so depressed and humiliated she eventually killed herself in a frozen field with pills and alcohol. In this case, a pair of other American sibling filmmakers, the Zellners, preferred to tell the made up account.

So you had Kumiko playing out the plot of what didn't actually happen to Takako, but plenty believed did, only ending up much the same way no matter what route she took to reach there, though the script at least gave her a respectful happy ending no matter that we could perceive things had not gone to plan, to say the least. In the Japanese sequences, we are witness to the power of storytelling and how it clouds Kumiko's judgement when she essentially swallows a lie, not able to get by in the real world so relying on fiction to replace it, yet ultimately hamstrung by the fact that, well, facts tend to get in the way of fantasy. This played out much as you would expect, which did speak to a lack of dramatic tension.

Assuming you hadn't heard the Fargo myth, Kumiko is so obviously a tragic individual that you would not be surprised at the manner in which she reached the conclusion - it all starts to go horribly wrong when she rejects Bunzo, her only true friend, as preparation to leave everything behind for the sake of her dreams. In that way, the film was informing you in a rather stark manner that dreams do not come true simply by wishing for them, indeed they may never come true at all, and you should get used to that but if you do so your inner life is much reduced. Would Kumiko have been happier if she'd realised she was chasing rainbows and returned to her soul-crushing office job and inept attempts at socialising? Actually, she was going to be a loser either way, more melancholy for us to mull over in a film that appeared on the surface to be a quirky comedy drama, but was more an indication of how there is no place for those like Kumiko who didn't fit in; there were those who tried to understand her, certainly, and help, but they would tell her the same thing: it's fake. Music by The Octopus Project.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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