I recently had the absolute pleasure to see Kumiko the Treasure Hunter in an arthouse theatre in Lancaster, PA. The theatre, called Zoetropolis, was found inside a labyrinthine building housing a cacophony of different businesses. The theatre was intimate and warm; we even got to sit on a couch intermixed among other single chairs and love-seats instead of typical theatre chairs. The staff hosted yoga in the other room, as evidenced by the muffled phrases of “reach your hands to the sky” and the like that crept in while the movie played. This was a mecca of youthful experimentation.
The film was quiet and thoughtful. We begin by seeing Kumiko stumbling across a rocky beach with no explanation given to the audience. Carrying a hand made map, she finds a spooky cave and within it, an old VHS of the film, Fargo. Why was she doing this? We never find out. Perhaps she is geocaching, perhaps this really is a treasure map, or perhaps she was simply incredibly lucky. She then uses the film to locate her next treasure, though fictional. The end of the Fargo features a suitcase of money hidden in the snow, and Kumiko takes this as the next step. She becomes obsessed with finding this treasure, and we can’t help but think something is wrong.
When she’s not looking for treasure, Kumiko works as an “office lady” among other young women who talk about eyelash extensions among themselves while Kumiko brews tea for her boss. The owner is a humorless man who chastises Kumiko for not steeping his tea enough, and suggests she leave the position because of her age. There’s a slight undertone of sexual harassment, and he may be asking her to be his mistress, as she has no romantic ties. She is not only alienated from her coworkers, but from herself because of this soul-crushing job. I believe this is the impetus of her fascination with treasure, for this longing to be a master of her own fate is a direct reaction to her unhappy, submissive life. The fantasy she creates is soothing.
The cinematography and music are both evocative aspects of the storytelling. The music, done by The Octopus Project, is strange, oceanic, and electronic. It is slightly warped mimicking the warped reality of the titular character. Meanwhile, the visuals of the film included interesting, angular shots and long, quite scenes of Kumiko walking quietly or eating ramen at home. This made her isolation feel more real, as we see her running from lunch dates with friends and quietly and awkwardly getting rabbit food for Bunzo. We see Kumiko in the mundane aspects of life, and because of that, feel more intimately connected to her.
I was impressed with this film and enjoyed seeing it. Despite the dark nature and quiet, contemplative moments, there was quite a bit of humor injected into Kumiko’s journey. It’s probably not playing at a theatre near you, unfortunately; I drove almost an hour to see it. It was well worth the trip. If you have the chance to see this, make an evening of it, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.