Kumiko The Treasure Hunter – Film Review

Kumiko The Treasure Hunter

Carol Bowditch checks out the quirky charm of Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, which is showing at this year’s Sydney Film Festival:

A 29 year-old Japanese woman called Kumiko waddles with determination through the tundra of a wintery Minnesota. She travels alone through the stark white, desolate environment, protected by a quilted duvet/poncho which she nicked from a motel for warmth. The duvet-ends drag through the mud and snow and her lips are blue. She still hasn’t found the treasure that she travelled from Tokyo to claim.

Kumiko discovered a case – packed with wads of cash – while watching a VHS copy of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, in her cramped Japanese apartment. The film is Hollywood made. The ‘treasure’, buried by a bloodied Steve Buscemi, is absolutely-no-doubt-about-it, fiction. Nonetheless, after several cases of hilarious thievery, and after creating a crude, hand-sewn map of the treasure’s location, Kumiko finds herself in the United States. She has run away from her nagging mother and unenthusiastic boss, abandoned her only ally, Bunzo (the rabbit), and set off with the relentlessness belief that it is her “true honour and density” to uncover that case of money from the film.

We spend extended time with the doe-eyed Kumiko, played by Rinko Kikuchi, whom you might recognise from Babel. Sharing snippets of screen time with her are the characters that take on caretaker roles as she travels to her end destination. Thinking that the highlight of any international traveller’s stay would be “America World”, is Shirley Venard’s elderly character, who houses the disorientated Kumiko and assures her that Fargo is too far away and cold at this time of year and she’d much rather a spin on the indoor ferris wheel as an alternative. Similar is David Zellner, playing the fumbling but good-hearted cop with every intention of helping Kumiko reach some sort of conclusion with her eccentric fantasy.

During the final sequences of the film, an excellent track, Kono Samourai, features. It is a fittingly satirical song playfully created with fake Japanese lyrics by french electro outfit, Yamasuki Singers (the core member of which was Thomas from Daft Punk’s dad). Directed by the Zellner Brothers, Kumiko The Treasure Hunter is best watched on a big screen, as the vast shots of the baron, white landscape that those familiar with Fargo will recognise, are a real treat. If you persevere with Kumikos quirk, which is, at times, quite pitiful and tragic, the ending sequences of the film are likely to have you squirming with great anticipation for a conclusion to this strange tale.

If you’re in Sydney and are keen to check out Sydney Film Festival’s offerings, make sure you fit in Kumiko The Treasure Hunter. It’s playing on Mon 9 Jun 4:45 PM at the State Theatre and Tue 10 Jun 4:30 PM at Event Cinema on George Street. For more information about Sydney Film Festival and tickets, see their website, here.

 Kumiko The Treasure Hunter review by Carol Bowditch.