I reviewed the Zellner bros' indie festival hit, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, for today's Washington Times. Here's how it opens:
"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" is a sad and lonely movie about a sad and lonely woman who embarks on an impossible quest for something that cannot possibly be real.
It's a slight, often mysterious movie about dashed hopes and the difficulty of accepting life's cold realities. Even more than that, it's a movie about isolation and all the ways that a person can be cut off — or cut herself off — from the rest of the world.
In this case, that person is Kumiko, a 29-year-old "office lady" at a nondescript workplace in Tokyo. She is surrounded by younger office ladies, all wearing the same outfits, all with smiles on their faces and laughter in their eyes.
Kumiko is different. She doesn't connect — even when others reach out.
When an old colleague stops her on the street and tries to catch up, she shrinks in like a turtle. When her co-workers gab at a table, she separates herself from their conversations.
Director David Zellner, who co-wrote the movie with his brother, Nathan, emphasizes the social strangeness of these scenes, the awkwardness of being expected to respond to meaningless friendly banter. For Kumiko, being befriended is an alienating experience.
When she is not at work, Kumiko fixates on a scene from a videotape she found buried near a beach — a ratty version of the Coen brothers' 1996 crime movie, "Fargo."
It's an odd movie, and while I don't think it's generous enough to viewers to fully succeed, it's consistently interesting.