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Sundance London 2014: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter | reviews, news & interviews

Sundance London 2014: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Sundance London 2014: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

A lonely soul travels far from home in this melancholy drama from David Zellner

Red Riding Hood crossed with a Spanish conquistador: Rinko Kikuchi in 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter'

A fresh take on the fish-out-of-water story, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter finds a lonely Japanese woman reimagining herself as an adventuress and travelling to America in pursuit of a fictional fortune. As with others of the ilk, the film derives humour from confusion and the culture clash but rather than being primarily concerned with calamity David Zellner's fifth film (co-written with his brother Nathan) makes Kumiko's alienation and retreat into fantasy its heartbreaking focus.

When we first meet 29-year-old Kumiko (2007 Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi of Babel fame), she's following a cloth map which leads her to a videotape hidden in a cave. Returning to her cramped Tokyo apartment she plays the tape which, amusingly, turns out to be the Coen brothers' movie Fargo. As she makes a plan to travel to Minnesota to unearth the briefcase of money she sees buried onscreen, it's obvious that this is more wilful fabrication than genuine delusion, but her detachment and desperate desire to give meaning to her life are painfully real.

Kumiko describes herself as being like a Spanish conquistador and in her scarlet-hooded sweatshirt she resembles Red Riding Hood, out of her depth in the big bad world. Despite (or perhaps because of) her lack of social skills, she cuts a sympathetic figure and along the way is offered assistance from a kindly old woman, a library security guard and, most touchingly, a Sheriff's deputy (Zellner himself) who shows what salve a sympathetic ear can be to a solitary soul.

The brooding score from The Octopus Project and a poignant performance from Kikuchi add considerable weight and tension to this most unusual of quests, and Zellner directs with admirable sensitivity. Most of all, perhaps, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is suffused with great sadness; it's a haunting, compassionate ode to a non-conformist spirit.

Kumiko's detachment and desperate desire to give meaning to her life are painfully real

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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