Film Review: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter


Director: Nathan Zellner
Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, Nobuyuki Katsube

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi), an isolated Japanese ‘Office Lady’, finds a grainy VHS of 1996 Coen brothers hit Fargo, and becomes certain it is her destiny to find and retrieve the treasure depicted in the film. It’s based on the true story of Takako Konishi, who committed suicide in Detroit Fields in 2001. Takako’s story was largely misreported in the media, leading the Fargo rumour – that she had died searching for the hidden money – to grow, when actually it was a deliberate and unrelated choice, provoked by factors including job loss and heartbreak.

Kumiko is a powerfully desolate film, with Kumiko’s loneliness equally apparent whether in bustling Tokyo or the wastelands of Minneapolis. There are moments of genuine tenderness exhibited by the characters she meets along the way, including a quietly brilliant performance by David Zellner as a maladroit sheriff, trying his hardest to reach her as she wanders further into her own mind and an old lady (Shirley Vernard) who has the two best lines in the film: “Hardbacks are for showoffs” and “Solitude is just a fancy word for lonlieness.”. Aesthetically, Kumiko is a beautiful and haunting film, but somehow the real sentiment behind the story seems to have been lost, like Kumiko, to the snow fields.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

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