Video on Demand — June 2015

Video pick of the month

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

American movies, dreams and export all factor into Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, the Zellner brothers’ Sundance hit. The film starts with an almost fantasy-like prologue, as our mouse-y, red-hoodied heroine, treasure map in hand, trudges along a Japanese beach until she finds a cave that’s hiding … a cracked VHS tape of the Coen brothers’ Fargo. Barely visible here, through video fuzz and roll bars, is that film’s opening text, famously — and incorrectly — stating, “This is a true story.” With those words, Kumiko — who is not some global adventurer but rather a withdrawn Japanese office lady — plans a breakout, away from the sexism and tedium of her administrative job and to the United States where, as the Coens’ film maps out, there remains a bag of money buried somewhere near the border of North Dakota and Minnesota. Needless to say, the snow-covered American Midwest is not what she dreamed it would be.

Japanese star Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim, Babel) brings a hyper-natural, heartbreaking intensity to her role; along with the filmmakers, she never doubts the sincerity of Kumiko’s quest. Reach for a comparison for something like Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter and you have to search back to Werner Herzog’s 1977 fable Stroszek — even if the Herzog film that more immediately sprung to mind after this film’s premiere at Sundance’s giant Eccles theater was the dreamier and more haunting Aguirre, the Wrath of God. (Scott Macaulay)

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