|"Before I killed Kenny, I stole|
his comfy jacket."
Produced by director Alexander Payne, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is loosely based on a true story of Takako Konishi who attempted the title character’s sojourn. While the facts point to depression and jilted love as the real reason behind her worldwide trip, the Zellners’ film focuses instead on the urban legend of treasure hunting and more or less follows the same trajectory Konishi traveled with some surprising and clever embellishments of the truth.
Much like Fargo, Kumiko regards the bizarre scenario without judgment and manages to elicit a degree of compassion and humor towards its single-minded and tragically confused subject. From the opening widescreen panoramas of a lonely Tokyo reef as the titles creep onscreen beset by increasingly loud ambient howls of music by The Octopus Project, Kumiko announces itself as difficult to define as its central heroine. Leading a mundane life of solitude outside of a pet rabbit for company, Kumiko’s existence consists of performing office work before returning to her apartment to resume obsessing over the scene of Buscemi and the briefcase, right down to hand-tracing shots and working out mathematical equations pertaining to the dimensionality of the location. The story itself wouldn’t work half as well were it not for Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi, who imbues the peculiar figure with conviction and desperate determination. Kumiko could well have been played as a freak, but Kikuchi’s portrait invites sympathy for the woman and we find ourselves hoping she’ll find whatever she thinks she’s looking for.
|"Oh so sorry, silly rabbit.|
I will now set you free into a pot
made for soup!"
Kumiko could have gone down the route of ridicule and scorn towards the subject, but instead takes the protagonist’s point of view and becomes a haunting character study. Among the numerous dumbfounded Americans she comes into contact with, a police officer remarks he wants to help her but doesn’t know how given the indisputable facts she continues to deny to herself. If you yourself came across the lunatic yet beguiling Kumiko and learned of her fantastical goal, you’d be hard pressed to not want to extend a helping hand also.