“Kumiko The Treasure Hunter” is a film that I had on my radar earlier this year but it never played in any theaters close by so I decided to wait until it became available on VOD. I finally saw the film and really enjoyed it. Kumiko is a 29-year old office lady that lives in Japan. She is very depressed, with a strict and often critical boss and a nagging mother who is constantly yelling at her for not being married. Kumiko lives in a tiny apartment with her pet rabbit Bunzo who seems to be her only friend in the world. One day, Kumiko is exploring a cave near the seashore, and discovers an old VHS tape which she takes home with her. She plays the tape and the words “This is a true story,” pop up on the screen. The film is a recorded version of the Coen Brother’s film “Fargo.” Kumiko is enthralled by the film and she sees Steve Buscemi’s character burying a briefcase full of money. Kumiko thinks that somewhere off under the Minnesota tundra lies a satchel of buried treasure. Kumiko, being naive and jaded, embarks on an adventure to America to find that buried money so that she can become rich.
The film was engaging and I really felt myself rooting for Kumiko. You kind of know how the movie is going to end, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. The film plays out more like a dark comedy, as the language barrier between Kumiko and the Americans causes a melting pot of chuckles. Kumiko is on a mission and nothing will stop her or get in her way. Her jaded nature is something to smile about and even though she is setting herself up for failure, you are hoping that she does find the money even though it doesn’t exist. People tell her it’s just a movie but she is convinced otherwise. The script was very well written and the movie was directed to perfection by the Zellner Brothers who write and direct their own indie films while also starring in them. The film contains subtle, surreal styled moments and the ending is very much a surreal experience. The music is wonky, a somber symphony of depressing scores by a group called The Octopus Project. The odd music fit the film perfectly.
What really stood out to me besides the writing and the music was the cinematography. This was a beautifully dark looking film. The lighting, the colors, everything looked absolutely gorgeous on screen. When Kumiko walks the Minnesota Tundra, there are miles and miles of white snow, and yet she is wearing a bright red sweatshirt which makes her really stand out. Red against white is an incredible contrast and Sean Porter who shot the film did an amazing job carefully picking colors and appropriate lighting when behind the camera.
I can’t say that this film is for everyone. It is slow, depressing but has a uniqueness to it that makes it a fun watch. You want to find out what happens with this character. This is the epitome of an indie film so if you like loud action films or romantic comedies then this film is not for you. If you love character driven stories and wonky music with a good story, then definitely check this one out. I was pleasantly surprised and found a lot of merit in the story.