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SXSW Movie Review: Zellner brothers 'Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter'

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter


Filmmaking siblings David and Nathan Zellner strike the mother lode with their latest film “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” screening at this year's SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Courtesy of SXSW

With "Kumiko" the brothers have crafted a visually striking and haunting film that not only pays homage to the Coen brothers "Fargo" but also stands out for its own unique take on a real-life story that spawned an urban legend.

In the Zellner's cinematic fairy tale version of the story, Rinko Kikuchi ("Pacific Rim") stars as Kumiko, a troubled young woman, who lives in Japan and works in a boring office job where she doesn't get along with her boss or coworkers.

Kumiko is not married and doesn't have a boyfriend or any friends to speak to (except for her pet rabbit).

She also has an overbearing mother, who constantly calls to nag her about getting married and having children or coming back home to live with and take care of her.

But Kumiko is steadfast in her rebellion against her mundane life situation, eventually losing herself in repeated viewings of an old VHS copy of the movie “Fargo” directed by the aforementioned Coen brothers.

Believing that the Coen's movie is based on a true story, Kumiko begins taking notes and details on where Steve Buscemi’s character buries a suitcase filled with cash.

With her treasure map in hand, Kumiko sets out on a journey to Minnesota to find the cash, but along the way she encounters an assortment of colorful locals who try to help her in their own way.

After awhile, it becomes obvious that Kumiko is lost in a delusional fantasy world of her own (at one point describing herself as being like a Spanish Conquistador traveling to the New World to seek buried riches using her hand-drawn treasure map) but no one seems to know how to really help her out.

Instead of delving into the deeper psychological aspects of her seemingly delusional fantasy, the Zellner brothers depict Kumiko's journey in an oddly believable and endearing light, which makes viewers care about her finding that treasure rather than getting her life in order.

It's a bold move, which leads to an unexpected ending.

"Kumiko" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It screened at SXSW on Tuesday, March 11 and will have an encore screening on Saturday, March 15 in the Paramount Theatre at 9pm.

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