Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014) Film Review from the 3rd Annual Sundance London Film Festival, a movie directed by David Zellner, and starring Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Nathan Zellner, and Kanako Higashi.
This is a charming film, wonderfully helmed and acted by Rinko Kikuchi and subtly directed by David Zellner under a very efficient soundtrack by the film-makers’ frequent collaborators The Octopus Project. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter features a wonderful concept, an extremely likable protagonist and a quiet but undeniable charm. For all of its emotional charge, the cleverness of its idea and also the artistic approach with which it is presented is also quite impressive. It’s a very simple story the charm of which comes from the naivety of the protagonist in this otherwise bland and devoid of magic world of the 21st century.
Rinko Kikuchi is the film’s best ingredient. Her acting is believable, sincere and heartfelt. She is easily capable of infecting us with her ambition and desire to reach the end of her journey in order to get her hands on her prize. It is a performance of bare honesty-the viewer is capable of seeing every single thought in her head through the flicker of her eyes. Kikuchi is a supremely expressive actress-the perfect choice for a simple but emotional story like this one. The story doesn’t strike us as childish or ridiculous largely because she makes the journey so close to our hearts. There is humour, yes, but the comedy, as small and innocent as it is, never takes away from the film’s dignity, it adds to the charismatic nature of the protagonist and this magical (in her head) road she follows.
There is something very unique and remarkable about Kumiko. We know what she wants all the way through and we know how she feels and yet we don’t know her. Why is she so eager to believe that the suitcase being buried in the ground from Fargo is real? What motivates her? We find it difficult to understand but this is where the charm of the character comes from. She is all desire from top to bottom, both in her and in the eyes of the audience.
The film is both an emotional as well as visual treat. The director and the director of photography has crafted a very magical look for the film, transforming reality into a fairy-tale, into an adventure as it should be in the heart and mind of the protagonist. The writing, apart from the original concept at the core of the script is thoroughly devoted to the main character. We see a protagonist that is not supposed to be in the 21st century. There are no adventures or magic or secrets here. There are no suitcases full of money, buried in the ground. This conflict between the girl we care for and her surrounding world is at the centre of the film.
The music fits perfectly as the visual style. The Octopus Project has collaborated frequently in the past with the same film-makers but as far as rumours and opinions go this is their best work. Artistically and technically, this is a great film and the music is perhaps the best of the background assets of this motion picture.
There are moments when the film slows down and the emotion pouring out of the screen is not so present and effective. Overall, however, this is a superb small film, with a wonderful concept and a great lead performance, which quite possibly was the best thing at the Sundance London Film Festival and makes Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter the best film of the event.
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