Synopsis: A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.
Release Date: April 17, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Urban legends are great jumping-off points for movie scripts; true or not, the stories are compelling enough for them to have been repeated incessantly by anyone who has heard them. There is an urban legend behind Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, and it has resulted in an extremely compelling film.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is about a young Japanese woman named Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi from Babel and Pacific Rim) who lives a humdrum life as an office assistant in Tokyo, Japan. One day, Kumiko comes across an old VHS copy of the Coen Brothers’ 1996 classic Fargo in, of all places, a cave on the outskirts of the city. She pops it into her VCR and immediately becomes entranced by it – especially by the opening title card that explains how the events of the film are entirely true. Noticing that, at the end of the movie, there is still a suitcase of cash buried in the snowy wastelands of Minnesota, Kumiko studies the tape, makes herself a map (out of needlepoint, no less), and heads to America to find the treasure that she believes has been sitting there under the frigid earth, just waiting for her to come and claim it as her own.
Like Fargo, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was written and directed by a pair of brothers – David and Nathan Zellner (Plastic Utopia, Kid-Thing). The film almost seems like a sequel to Fargo, but not in a traditional, Star Wars-leads-to-The Empire Strikes Back kind of a way. It’s more like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 or The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) in that it’s a self-referential sequel to the real-world implications of the original film. The movie Fargo exists as a fictional movie in the universe of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, but plays a significant role in the story as if it actually had happened. Although it’s not an official sequel, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is very Fargo-esque in tone and feel, and that’s really the point. By the time Kumiko makes it to Minnesota to search for her treasure, she meets a bunch of people who are all just as nice and helpful as the characters in Fargo, which only makes her believe all the more that the movie is true. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter delivers a fun, vicious circle of reality-meets-pop culture.
Sadly, the legend upon which Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is based has been debunked; there never was a Japanese woman who travelled to Minnesota in search of the lost million (minus $80k) from Fargo. But, at least we got a movie out of it. A quirky, cool, visually stunning, well-acted modern treasure hunt movie. Now if we could just get someone to make a movie about all of those Atari E.T. cartridges that are buried in that New Mexico landfill.
The soundtrack to Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was written and performed by electronic indie rock band The Octopus Project, an Austin, Texas-based quartet of multi-instrumentalists that consists of Josh Lambert, Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda, and Ryan Figg. The music is an electronic score that doesn’t quite sound like one; it’s got plenty of synthesizers and loops, but there are also quite a bit of hand percussion sounds and stringed instruments that add order to the chaos. The film’s score includes both haunting and simple melodies, as well as lush and complex soundscapes, all of which mix seamlessly with the sound design of René Jones-Jones to create a complex sonic tapestry. In short, it’s the type of score that can carry a movie from the bustling mania of Tokyo to the peaceful isolation and frigidity of Minnesota.
There are a couple of things that the Zellner Brothers did during production of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter that make it look truly authentic. First, they shot on location, both in Tokyo, Japan, and in different parts of Minnesota, a fact which emphasizes the different worlds that Kumiko inhabits; she goes from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city to the relaxed slow-motion of the rural countryside, and the film goes right along with her. Secondly, the Zellners chose to shoot Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter in chronological order, beginning in Japan in the autumn and ending in Minnesota during the winter. Of course, this puts Kumiko in Minnesota during the same time of year that Fargo took place, a plot point that is of the utmost importance. Another brilliant decision was to have Kumiko always be draped in a red cloak, a color that makes the character stand out from the backgrounds of both Tokyo and Minnesota in order to show that she really doesn’t fit in with either locale. These small details help Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter transcend just being a good film and turn it into a great one.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): David Zellner
- Producer(s): Andrew BanksJim BurkeCameron LambChris OhlsonNathan Zellner
- Screenwriter(s): David ZellnerNathan Zellner
- Cast: Rinko Kikuchi
- Editor(s): Melba Jodorowsky
- Cinematographer: Sean Porter
- Production Designer(s): Kikuo Ohta
- Costume Designer: Tony Crosby
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: The Octopus Project
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA