Review: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Zellner & Zellner, 2014) – Sundance 2014

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance FIlm Festival website

Courtesy of the 2014 Sundance FIlm Festival website

Originally, we hadn’t intended on seeing any movie during this time slot, but then we had our bags with us and nothing else to do, so our friend nabbed two tickets for us and we joined the 1000+ other viewers in Eccles Theater. Inspired by a true story that later became an urban legend, the film follows the deeply introverted Kumiko (played by Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi) as she journeys to the U.S. Midwest in search of the buried money from the movie Fargo, which she thinks is a true story.

The Zellner brothers‘ film is quiet and slow-paced with bursts of quirky humor. The beautifully framed scenes and stark cinematography lend the movie a poetic quality that fits in with a story that is never intended to be strictly realistic. As an audience, we never get much of Kumiko’s history and so don’t know why her life is imbued with its wry, difficult sadness, but it’s enough that she’s the oddball that she is.

My problem with the film, finally, is that it never seems to go anywhere. Maybe that’s a limitation in me as a viewer, that I need movies to, well, move. In the end, the film just seems to be the directors‘ answer to the question, “What kind of person would think that Fargo is real and travel to the U.S. to find buried treasure?” It doesn’t feel like enough.

Note: In the Q&A, the directors delightedly mentioned that their crew for the Tokyo scenes was the same one employed by boundary-breaking director Gaspar Noé in Enter the Void. I shuddered to remember that horrible but nonetheless memorable movie from our first Sundance Film Festival in 2010. Check it out, if you dare.