Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter ★★★

Hmm. When I read what this film was about I was instantly attracted. As a fan of the Coen Bros' Fargo, I felt like it was made for me. What an unusual idea. Unfortunately, the odd premise is not wholly successful.

Tremendously sad and troubling, but peculiarly hilarious and populated with strange characters, Kumiko scores marks for originality. This is the story of a lonely, alienated young Japanese woman who becomes obsessed with finding the suitcase of money buried by Steve Buscemi's character in Fargo. With an unsatisfying job, a lone pet companion and consistent pressure from her mother to conform to social norms - marriage, professional ambition - she lives for 'treasure' hunts such as this.

With a map of Minnesota, nabbed from the library, and an embroidered map of the 'spot' she heads to the US. There, her journey takes her into the presence and care of several larger-than-life Minnesotans who are as baffled as we are about her mysterious obsession and how adamant she is that the 'fake' treasure is in fact 'real'. She has gone so far into a shell, imprisoned herself within her fantasies, that she just cannot understand.

The Zellner's are indebted to the Coen Bros' Fargo, and have tried to incorporate their own brand of comedy to this despair-riddled drama. We sympathize with Kumiko for a while, but eventually her moral choices become questionable. Strangers help her out, and then she abandons them and often exploits their generosity.

Loved the music, at times a haunting tweaked-cover of Carter Burwell's famous score, and the striking cinematography, but the more I think about the film's ending the less I like it. Pretty mixed on this one, still.