OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

A Zellner Bros. Advenutre

Living in a cramped Tokyo apartment while holding down an unfulfilling job, the lonely and disenchanted Kumiko yearns for something deeper in her life. Much of her alienation stems from the weight of expectations around her. An ‘OL’ (office lady) for a Japanese businessman, she mechanically goes through the motions of her job, fetching him tea and dropping off and picking up his laundry. Quieter, and thus odder, than everyone else, Kumiko unfortunately stands out.

Poster art for Kumiko The Treasure HunterOne day while going for a walk on the shore, Kumiko discovers a soggy VHS tape. When she salvages what she can of it, she puts it on to discover a bloodied man, on the lam, hiding a briefcase full of money by a snowfence in a wintry North Dakotan landscape.

Kumiko is watching Steve Buscemi in Fargo, but entranced by the hazy, broken images and her mysterious discovery, the young girl believes the video contains some kind of divine message she should chase. To put her wordless plan into action, she steals an American atlas from a library and uses a company credit card to make her way to the American midwest to retrieve the treasure buried in the snow in Fargo, North Dakota.

A character portrait of a strange and lonely dreamer on a quest, Kumiko is held together by a terrific, mostly silent performance by Rinko Kikuchi. Much like in any fairy tale, Kumiko does meet her share of characters along the way of her pilgrimage to Fargo, but thankfully even the most eccentric of them is firmly rooted in reality.

Both funny and lugubrious with respect for its characters’ instability, Kumiko suggests a darkness more evocative for never being spelled out. Is Kumiko mentally ill, or is she someone special who knows something we don’t? The Zellner brothers' magical Treasure Hunter leaves much to chew on in its poignant final scene.

– Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

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