Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter ★★★★★

I go Fargo.

You know, sometimes you just need to be in the right mood to enjoy an absurdist piece of cinema such as this. Clearly, I was in the right mood for it, as I was utterly delighted from beginning to end, no matter how outlandish the story may have gotten. I personally saw it as a love letter to Japanese films, with the weird outlandish story becoming reality. In this case, a film becomes real life for our heroine, Kumiko.

Kumiko is a lonely Japanese woman who enjoys long walks on the beach searching for buried treasure- when she's not at work serving tea and running errands for her somewhat overbearing boss. When Kumiko discovers an old Japanese VHS tape of Joel and Ethan Coen's "Fargo" buried in a cave on the beach, she becomes enthralled with the film, constantly watching it at home, trying to determine where Steve Buscemi's character buried the money in the film. Finally convinced she has the right location, she weaves a copy of the frame in the film where the treasure was buried in a doily, takes a page out of the atlas of her library, and sets off for America with her boss's company credit card.

Naturally, there are several american characters throughout the film who try to help Kumiko along her adventure, not least of which is a kind policeman (played by the director, David Zellner.) People try to dissuade her from visiting Fargo, since from an American standpoint it's basically the Antartica of the USA at the time of year the film takes place. But Kumiko is bound and determined to find the buried money from Fargo, and doesn't let anyone bring her spirits down.

I was surprised how funny the film actually turned out to be, and yet at the same time, heartbreakingly dramatic. Naturally we Americans sometimes find some things Japanese people do to be funny sometimes, and I believe the Zellner bros. attempted to utilize this viewpoint to the best they could in this film, and what we get is an astounding dramedy: just the right amount of comedy mixed with the right amount of drama in the story.

The fantastical portion of the film is probably what really drew me to give it such a high rating. Kumiko the Treasure Hunter draws from the vein of such films as Last Action Hero and The Purple Rose of Cairo, where cinema can be viewed as an in-depth experience both visually and physically. After all, do we not watch movies to escape the stress and depression of everyday life, if only for a few precious hours? I most certainly do. And what a sweet escape it is. There's nothing quite like being enthralled in the world of a film, and Kumiko indulges this fantasy many times over.

I can see why many may find a distaste for this film. In an age where blockbusters severely overshadow better art house films, audiences are drawing away from films with real stories, rather taking explosions and action-packed scenes. It's not necessarily that I don't enjoy a good superhero film once in a while, but I find myself more and more often drawn to the smaller, more art house type films. Kumiko is guaranteed to become a sorely underrated film, possibly a sleeper hit for the future, who really knows at this point?

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is essentially a fantastically wonderful film that isn't afraid to indulge on it's main characters fantasies. The idea presented in the film that anything is possible in cinema is one that I can certainly appreciate, even relate to at a certain level. It's a perfect little escape from the world for 105 minutes, and one I'm eagerly waiting to view again.

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