Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kumiko, The Treasure Thief

A woman follows a map to find a video tape, and another map, buried under a rock. The tape of is of Fargo. After analyzing the movie, she decides to embark on an adventure to find the money Steve Buscemi buried in the final act of that film. This is the story of Kumiko, The Treasure Thief, based on the urban legend which was inspired by the real story of a Japanese tourist foolish enough to come to Minnesota in the winter.

What's particularly uncanny about this film is how much it is like Buzzard, that low-budget flick we saw a few weeks ago: Kumiko is a misfit. She's an "office girl", but at 29, she's too old for that job, which she's not very good at, doesn't do well, and is additionally too antisocial to even enjoy on a human level.

She's a depressive who avoids calls from her nagging mother, and who really only comes to life at all in pursuit of this mysterious treasure.

Which would be cool if she weren't insane. This is where Kumiko departs from Buzzard: Buzzard's hero is phenomenally dumb and unethical, and most of the humor comes from Napoleon Dynamite-esque antics. Kumiko has fewer laughs, and they're entirely based on the absurdity that comes with insanity.

Which, you know: Mixed feelings. It's hard not to laugh at her actions, but it's hard to feel good about laughing about them, either.

The Boy and I liked it all right. It wasn't boring, just sad. It just hit my pet peeve about "based on a true story" movies: It wasn't, really. It was a fanciful imagining, about a legend that arose due to a translation difficulty. The people who were involved have actively denied the whole Fargo thing. (The real Kumiko had been to Minnesota, apparently, and had an old boyfriend there.)

So it seems like these movies tend to hew to some reality at the expense of good storytelling, but then throw reality to the wind when it doesn't matter so much. Foxcatcher is another example of that: Lots of changes to the fact that didn't make for better drama.

Good acting from director David Zellner, who co-wrote with brother Nathan. Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim, Brothers Bloom) is suitably pathetic—is that the right word, or is it bathetic?—as Kumiko. She basically carries the film. Well made and shot overall.

I can't blame it much for not being the movie I wanted it to be. But if I see another film about someone who contributes nothing to life and has no ambition, I'm going to call it a trend and write a lengthy article for a glossy magazine about it.

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