Ku­miko, the Trea­sure Hunter

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Michael Abatemarco

Ku­miko, the Trea­sure Hunter , drama, not rated, in English and Ja­panese with sub­ti­tles, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 3 chiles

Ku­miko (Rinko Kikuchi), a hum­ble of­fice worker, lives a soli­tary ex­is­tence in Tokyo. Ev­ery night, she locks her­self in her small apart­ment where she lives with her pet rab­bit, Bunzo, with whom she shares her meals. One day, she dis­cov­ers a bat­tered VHS tape of the Co­hen broth­ers’ film Fargo stashed in a coastal cave. She stud­ies the movie in­tently, tak­ing notes, par­tic­u­larly about the scene in which Steve Buscemi’s char­ac­ter buries a brief­case full of money in the snow along a fence some­where in Min­nesota. Be­cause Fargo states at its be­gin­ning that it’s based on a true story, she be­lieves the money must re­ally be there. Con­vinced that it’s her des­tiny to find it, she takes the com­pany credit card her boss has given her (with in­struc­tions to buy his wife some­thing nice for their an­niver­sary) and uses it to fi­nance a trip to Amer­ica. Armed with a map of the re­gion, a copy of

Fargo , a compass, and the be­lief that she is like a mod­ern-day con­quis­ta­dor in search of gold, Ku­miko sets off on her quest.

Ku­miko, the Trea­sure Hunter is based on a true in­ci­dent: the un­for­tu­nate tale of Takako Kon­ishi, a Tokyo of­fice worker whose dead body was found in a field in Detroit Lakes, Min­nesota, in 2001. Kon­ishi was al­leged to have seen Fargo and was search­ing for the money when she died, although the real cir­cum­stances are that she suf­fered from de­pres­sion and com­mit­ted sui­cide. But this film is not as bleak as the story that in­spired it. El­e­ments of hu­mor are in­ter­jected through­out — as when Ku­miko ar­rives in Amer­ica and en­gages in an in­ap­pro­pri­ate, one-sided con­ver­sa­tion with two tourist agents, one of whom doesn’t know the mean­ing of the ini­tial­ism TMI (too much in­for­ma­tion), but Ku­miko speaks lit­tle English and can­not un­der­stand what he says. Kikuchi, who also served as the film’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, plays Ku­miko as sullen and dis­af­fected with down­cast eyes and a ner­vous de­meanor. She avoids peo­ple as best she can and is un­com­fort­able in their pres­ence.

On one hand, this is a story about a woman who has suc­cumbed to a delu­sion. On the other, it’s a fa­ble about fol­low­ing one’s pas­sion, no mat­ter the cost. Ku­miko, wrapped in a stolen blan­ket, risks the bru­tal Min­nesota win­ter to chase her dream. Although it’s a drama, direc­tor David Zell­ner, work­ing from a script he co-wrote with Nathan Zell­ner, in­fuses the film with mo­ments of pure fan­tasy, such as how Ku­miko dis­cov­ers the VHS cas­sette and a late se­quence whose mean­ing is left to the viewer to decode (a pos­si­ble in­ter­pre­ta­tion of­fers dream­ers like Ku­miko some hope against the odds).

Re­mote branch: Rinko Kikuchi

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