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Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter

I was at a training thing for work earlier this week. During lunch, I was sitting next to a friend/co-worker who had come with me. I suddenly remembered that it might be close enough to the weekend that I could start planning my movie watching. Only one of my theaters to keep an eye on had times posted, but to my surprise, they were showing Kumiko. And at a time that would be convenient to go to (balancing yoga classes and other movies marked for the weekend)! I mentioned to my friend that I had just scheduled one of my weekend movies. She asked what movie, and I told her, to which she replied "That makes sense. It sounds very much like your kinda movie". Indeed it did.

Actually all I knew about this movie was the half page write up that EW had (no surprise that I'm looking there for film inspiration). Most of the time, I need a little more than that to convince me, but there've been times I've gone on less. But that half pager was enough to tell me that yes, this is very much a Dawn movie. The inspiration was the story of a Japanese woman found wandering the cold of North Dakota, who claimed that she was looking for the treasure Steve Buscemi's character buries in Fargo. The ending to her story may have been bleak, but the possible adventure of it inspired Kumiko, a fictionalization and sensationalized version of that story.

Rinko Kikuchi plays the titular Kumiko. I realized as I was buying my ticket that I didn't actually know if the film would be in English or Japanese with subtitles. Kikuchi is an Academy Award nominated actress, but her Academy Award nomination was for Babel, in which her character spoke in her native Japanese, so that didn't help me. Turns out, it was a little of both. Half the film is set in Japan, the other half in Minnesota. The appropriate language is used in each, but there isn't really a whole lot of dialog. Kumiko is a quiet and solitary creature, so much of it played out silently or at least wordlessly.

Right, so, we start off being introduced to Kumiko. She's quiet and dissatisfied. We see various illustrations of how aimless her life currently is. Her boss doesn't like her, her mother nags her, she can't handle social situations. Every night, she comes home and studies her VHS tape of Fargo. When her boss loans her his company credit card to buy a present for his wife, she instead uses it to run off to Minnesota with nothing but her red hoodie, a map torn out of an atlas, and a needlepoint diagram of the fence featured in the film. Going any further into this would be spoilerific.

I loved the unique and quirky premise (especially since we all know I love Fargo, as was established in a post a couple days ago when unrelated to this, I watched and blogged it). And I really loved the character. The reverence she had when she held the VHS and the joy she had surrounding the movie was endearing, as were some of her quirks and the "I don't give a \m/" attitude. While I totally get why we had such long set up to her trip, it felt really dragged out. It's never easy trying to display melancholy while still being engaging. Things took a while to really get going. Once they did, however, it was, hmmm. I was gonna say fun adventure, but fun isn't really the right word. Maybe for the audience but not for Kumiko. At the very least it was an adventure worth watching.

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter - \m/ \m/ \m/
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