Dream doesn't cost a thing, people say. It doesn't. But to make into a reality is a whole different story and there's always delusions on the way. In "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" Rinko Kikuchi plays the title role, a young Japanese woman whose source of happiness is to find buried "treasures" in places. One day, she finds a VHS copy of Coen brothers classic "Fargo" and becomes obsessed by one particular part of the film which revolves around Steve Buscemi's character hiding a bag filled with money, burying it in the snow. Kumiko doesn't have much going on with her life: can't stand her colleagues from work, barely connects herself with an old friend, and there's pressure from her boss and more pressure from her mom living somewhere and always putting her daughter down for leaving her behind. With that mind frame, our "hero" is about to go on a journey to the States to find "Fargo treasure". Why? Because she thinks it's real.
Like "Fargo", this film puzzles its viewers in trying to find ways to establish what can be deemed real and what it's not. The Coen's film begins with a disclaimer about the events portrayed as a real story. I watched it as a kid and totally believed, and they weren't the only source for that information. Many people jumped on that bandwagon without doing a bit of research. It'd take me a few more years to find out nothing like that happened and that the directors were doing a prank on viewers. It's effect was a masterful and successful one. Now, comes the opposite side: "Kumiko" was indeed based on a real story, the story of Takako Konishi, a woman from Japan found dead in a field in Minnesota and the report on the news was that she was looking for that bag of cash from "Fargo". But the Zellner brothers didn't make a thrilling project with all those great elements. It's the most annoying film I've seen in ages, sad, bleak, with poor use of symbolism and a picture that don't make a good service, whether being entertaining or cheating a whole section of the crowd with its final image.
A gorgeous and meaningful cinematography couldn't make for the film's errors and loads of absurdity. I just couldn't care for any the characters (except the state trooper, he was well-intentioned but too bad he wasn't a cinephile like I am. I'd be more helpful in that situation he faced); Kumiko was one of those characters that you understand while she's facing objections and problems in life, she's very depressed but doesn't know exactly, acting in a child-like manner and she can only get a sense of pure joy when she's watching "Fargo" repeatedly to the point of destroying the tape. Most of her actions make the story go further and further from enjoyment and greatness. Ripping a page from a book when she could've asked for a photocopy; her actions with her old acquaintance, someone who truly likes her; and when told about that the film is not real ("No fake!"). Those moments had me cringing so bad, I couldn't wait for its ending. Nothing wrong with Kikuchi's performance but it's a minor effort that wasn't worthy of her talents and in some bits I was reminded of her role in "Babel", and that made her seem as an one note actress.
A cultural thing or coincidence? I'm not sure. But I was reminded of another Japanase individual - a more famous and also real one - who was stubborn with his actions and it also revolved on him being stuck in the wilderness to follow his ultimate convictions. His name was Hiroo Onoda, the last WWII soldier to surrender in 1974 (that's right, 29 years after the end of the conflict). He stood there on this island in Philippines, refusing to accept the war was over because he needed his superior officer word on that. He and three other soldiers stuck on this place receiving leaflets and other messages about the fact (one gave it up in 1950, two others were shot through the years). And I like to think he was the lucky one unlike Kumiko, which makes me wonder what would be fundamental in Kumiko or Konishi in stopping their pointless search? Possibly the presence of Joel or Ethan Coen - if they ever heard of them.
If the makers took the real premise of someone trying to find the impossible after seeing a movie, turn into a comedy with a bunch of friends trying to find this money (my idea goes like this: a megalomaniac film buff joins his two slow-minded friends to a search around the globe) then we'd have something far more relevant than this thing. The Zellner's weren't aiming at anything specifically. What was the point? To show that the escapism brought on by the movies can actually move mountains yet they'll never be real except in one's head? The right movie must fall into the right hands and minds? Obsessed people need to be better controlled, even the ones who look more innocently? I got nothing from here except some beautiful landscape and the daring move of making the majority of the film in Japanese with captions instead of going with English in everything.
High hopes for this movie but the final result was a total crash. They had the intriguing real-life story to follow (the reasoning behind the woman's obsession was right after some relationship issue, and the writers should have follow that story) yet they messed it up. Unworthy of the praise it got in several places. 3/10