TAD 2014: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Review

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

While a major hit at Sundance earlier this year, this offbeat psychological drama and character piece doesn’t exactly scream out to the Toronto After Dark crowd. It’s thoughtful, slow moving, austere, and has very few major jolts to it. Then again, the similarly low key Let the Right One in was a massive success at the festival a few years back, so hopefully the festival audience can get on the side of this wildly inventive film.

Pitched somewhere between a bleakly deadpan comedy and an oddly inspiring tragedy, this film from the filmmaking team of David and Nathan Zellner concerns it’s titular heroine’s quixotic quest. After viewing a VHS of the Coen Brothers’ seminal, snowy noir Fargo, lonely, isolated Tokyo native Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi, giving a monumental performance) convinces herself that the stash of money that goes unclaimed in the film is a real treasure that she’s going to devote her life to finding.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter 2

Framed as if Kumiko were an explorer, it’s clear that not all is well in her world, but that the Zellners have no desire to talk down to the character or mock her. There’s clearly a massive amount of depression that this woman is suffering from, glimpsed only briefly in looks into her personal life and via Kikuchi’s penetrating stares and the few words she speaks.

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Full of subtle humour, stunning cinematography, keen characterization, and a wealth of raw, human emotion, it’s easily the best overall film at the festival. Maybe not the best genre fare (that’s still The Babadook), but this is undoubtedly exceptional filmmaking. You might not get what you’d expect from a “Toronto After Dark movie,” but it’s hard not to be enthralled by it. (Andrew Parker)

Screens

Monday, October 20th, 9:30pm, Scotiabank Theatre

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