Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
|Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Zellner|
|Music by||The Octopus Project|
|Edited by||Melba Jodorowsky|
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a 2014 American drama film co-written and directed by David Zellner. The film stars Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, and Kanako Higashi.
The story is based on the urban legend surrounding the 2001 death of Takako Konishi who was reported in the media to have died of hypothermia outside Detroit Lakes, Minnesota in search of the fictional ransom money seen buried in the snow from the 1996 film Fargo. In actuality, Konishi had committed suicide.
Kumiko is a twenty-nine year old office lady who lives in utter solitude in Tokyo. She works a dreadful, dead-end job under a boss she hates, is intimidated by her well-off peers, and nagged by her overbearing mother to find a man and get married. The only joys in her life come from her pet rabbit, Bunzo, and a VHS copy of the film Fargo, which she found in a secluded cave on the shore. Convinced the film is based on a true story, Kumiko obsesses over a scene in which a character played by Steve Buscemi buries a satchel of ransom money along a snowy highway and begins taking notes while watching the worn-out tape. Kumiko even attempts to steal an atlas from a library, only to be caught by the security guard, who pities her and allows her to take the page on Minnesota.
With the threat of a young hire usurping her position at work and increasing pressure from her unsympathetic mother to return home, Kumiko abandons Bunzo on a train and boards a plane to Minneapolis using her boss's company card. With a hand-stitched treasure map and a quixotic spirit, Kumiko embarks on a journey over the Pacific and through the frozen Minnesota plains to find the purported fortune. Once there, she quickly finds herself unprepared for the harsh winter, having a weak grasp of English, and, with the card cancelled, lacking funds. She is picked up by an old lady, but sneaks off when the lady tries to convince her to stay at her home.
A sheriff's deputy picks her up after a passerby reports her wandering through the streets and tries to help her, believing her to be lost. She shows him the film and he attempts to understand her, gaining her trust. The officer takes her to a Chinese buffet restaurant, erroneously believing that someone there would be able to speak Japanese, to explain to her that the film is fiction. While at the restaurant, Kumiko calls her mother from a payphone hoping that she would be able to wire her money only for her mother to accuse her of theft from her workplace and further criticize her for being unmarried. This leads to Kumiko breaking down in front of the officer. While buying her winter attire, Kumiko kisses the officer, but he explains that he is married and tries again to explain to her that the treasure isn't real; she becomes upset, runs from the store and leaves in a taxi. The deaf taxi driver drives towards Fargo and when they stop and she is unable to pay the fare, she flees across a field. She soon wanders across a frozen lake where, while looking through the ice, she sees what appears to be a suitcase. Convinced that this is the treasure, she spends a long time attempting to break the ice, only to find a badly decayed oar.
That night, during a snowstorm, Kumiko wanders deeper into the forest and next morning the camera shows only a human-sized mound of snow. In the following scenes, Kumiko emerges from the snow, takes a ski lift to what appears to be the setting of the Fargo scene and sees the marker indicating the location of the treasure. She finds the satchel containing the money. Overjoyed with her triumph, she exclaims "I was right after all". She then sees her pet rabbit Bunzo and, reunited with him, proudly walks into the distance.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter had its world premiere on January 20, 2014 at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as part of the US Dramatic Competition. It later made its International Premiere at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival on February 8, 2014. The film has gone on to screen at South by Southwest, BamCinemaFest, Maryland, Karlovy Vary, and Sydney Film Festival.
The film received largely positive reviews upon its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 87% rating based on reviews from 61 critics, with an average score of 7/10. Metacritic gives the film a score of 68 based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "Generally favorable."
Scott Foundas, in his review for Variety, gave the film a positive review by saying that "A beguiling fable of buried treasure and movie-fed obsession" and added that "At every turn, we can sense what’s going on behind Kumiko’s doleful, downcast eyes; Kikuchi pulls us deeply into her world." Todd McCarthy in his review for The Hollywood Reporter called the film "A work of rigorously disciplined eccentricity, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is at once entirely accessible and yet appealing only to a rarified crowd ready to key into its narrow-bandwidth sense of humor." Eric Kohn of Indiewire praised the film and said that "Striking a complex tone of tragedy and uplift at the same time, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter both celebrates the escapist power of personal fantasies and bears witness to their dangerous extremes. It's the rare case of a story that's inspirational and devastating at once." David Ehrlich of Film.com gave the film 9.1 out of 10 and said that "Less of an homage to Fargo than the next appendage of the same exquisite corpse, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter plays like a dryly hilarious riff on Don't Look Now" but ultimately said that "[it's] one of the best films to ever premiere at Sundance."
The film went on to be nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards: Best Director and Best Female Lead. For his work on Kumiko and other films, Producer Chris Ohlson received the Spirit Award's Piaget Producers Award.
|2014||Sundance Film Festival||U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic||David Zellner||Nominated|
|U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score||The Octopus Project||Won|
|Fantasia (Montreal) International Film Festival||Best Director||David Zellner||Won|
|Little Rock Film Festival||Best Feature Film - Golden Rock Narrative Award||David Zellner||Won|
|Nantucket Film Festival||Showtime Tony Cox Award - Best Screenwriting in a Feature Film||David Zellner
|Las Palmas Film Festival||Audience Award - Best Feature Film||David Zellner||Won|
|Special Jury Award||David Zellner||Won|
|Sydney Film Festival||Best Feature Film||David Zellner||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Awards||Best Director||David Zellner||Nominated|
|Best Female Lead||Rinko Kikuchi||Nominated|
|2015||Crested Butte Film Festival||Best Narrative Feature||David Zellner||Won|
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