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Thursday, July 2, 2015

New on Video: International Ennui in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 2:30 PM


We're only halfway through the year, and while Inside Out and Clouds of Sils Maria have given it a run for its money, Davida and Nathan Zellner's Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter remains my favorite movie of 2015. It's a bleak tale of a lonely, damaged Japanese woman named Kumiko (executive producer Rinko Kikuchi) who travels to Minnesota to find the money buried in the beginning of Fargo. Based on a since-debunked urban legend, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter played for a week at the Opera Plaza back in March, and has been shown at the Castro at least once (and hopefully will be again many times), and now Anchor Bay released it this week on Blu-Ray, just in time for the Fourth of July!

In addition to getting a cover blurb from Werner Herzog, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was edited by a woman named Melba Jodorowsky. Co-director David Zellner has confirmed that she is not related to Alejandro Jodorowsky of El Topo, Dance of Reality, and not-quite-Dune fame, but it's an appropriate surname all the same, though while it lacks the overt surrealism of a Jodorowsky film, Kumiko is a similar sort of spiritual quest.

It's entirely Rinko Kikuchi's picture, as Kumiko travels from one alien world to another — she's as isolated in the crowds of her native Japan than she is in the empty spaces of the frozen Midwest — and desperately seeks a sense of meaning that both worlds seem determined to keep from her. (Come to think of it, though they're about different kinds of psychological trauma, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter would make a terrific double feature with next week's Felt.) Kumiko's obsession with a battered VHS tape of Fargo also lends the film a sort of J-Horror feel, at least in the early going.


I was a huge Coen Bros. fan back in the early 1990s. I knew Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing by heart — we played them constantly at my video store — and my first girlfriend and I drove from Fresno to San Francisco to see Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy. But Fargo, which we saw while visiting Fresno after having already moved to San Francisco (irony!), left me cold. Between this and last year's shockingly good television series, however, it's been inspiring some great art 20 years later.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter also has an appropriately haunting score by the Octopus Project, which you can listen to right now because the Internet.

Seek it out this weekend.
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Sherilyn Connelly


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