Movie Review: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

In an attempt to postpone my inevitable viewing of Unfriended, I decided to watch an Indie movie instead. I know I said I would see it, but that does not mean I cannot delay fulfilling my promise for a later date. Nevertheless, I am here to talk about Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a movie I knew nothing about outside of what was in the trailer. What did I find upon admission?

In all honesty, I have no idea what I just saw. My memory is not at fault, nor am I alluding to the film being in some way bad. I am dumbfounded to such a degree I cannot explain what went on in this movie. All I know for sure is Treasure Hunter is fantastic.

Rinko Kikuchi of Pacific Rim plays the title character, an awkward anti-social office worker from Shinjuku, who comes upon a random VHS tape, and becomes convinced of a hidden treasure in America. She sets out on a journey, a stranger in a strange land, the desire to complete her hunt pushing her through adversity, physical hardship, and cultural barriers.

Treasure Hunter is impossible to explain because it is everything and nothing. It is charming, then sad, then funny, then borderline hard to watch. The rapid shifts in tone are so drastic, in a lesser film they would be a problem. The movie, however, handles it better than one would expect because all throughout, there is a consistent thread of isolation that holds everything together.

Kumiko is a lonely person that lives life according to her interpretation, regardless of reality and society. The way she behaves is both disconcerting and in some ways cute as she interacts with the world in ways unlike a normal human. Her isolation grounds the film in such a fashion the shifts in tone feel natural; Kumiko is a unique individual, her interpretations of otherwise normal circumstances would no doubt manifest in the schizophrenic manner in which they are portrayed.

Perhaps that is what Treasure Hunter is about. Even when I am sure of my explanation, I have no idea what I just watched.

Kikuchi makes this film possible, utterly flawless in her performance. Her transformation from her Pacific Rim character Mako to Kumiko is confounding and beautiful. If she is not flat-out given an Oscar this coming year, I will stop watching movies… for about a week before the next review. I do not even care about the Academy and I want her to win everything.

On a technical level, Treasure Hunter is beautiful. From dingy cramped interiors, to open frozen plains, every scene is shot with artistic skill on par with the likes of Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson. The use of color and contrast makes ordinary sets appear beautiful, especially at the end when there is nothing but nature on screen.

Go see Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. It is brilliant, weird, strange beyond comprehension, and worth sitting through, even if you find yourself perplexed. I highly recommended you find where ever it is playing and see it immediately.

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