Treasure this

There’s still time to get in to see the Zellner brothers’ wondrous little fairytale if you’re around Dublin area.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Cert PG

Inhabiting a rare place between fact and fiction, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter was always going to stand out at this time of year, wedged as it is between the Oscarbait and the awards-season run-off.

You won’t have seen anything quite like it of late, and while much of its peculiar ambience is tied up in loneliness and confusion, it will leave you with a strangely optimistic glow that will puzzle you for days.

The Zellner brothers (director and co-star David and producer Nathan) co-wrote this fairytale from a beguiling source, namely an urban myth that had adhered itself to a 2001 tragedy. A Japanese woman was found frozen in Minnesota having taken her own life. But media at the time latched on to the rumour that she had gone there searching for the very loot which Steve Buscemi’s character is seen burying in the Coen bros film Fargo (1996). The Zellners were concerned only with this dotty and discredited side-plot.

Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, Pacific Rim) is still waters running deep as the isolated Tokyo office worker bullied by her boss and mother for being so alone. On a scratchy VHS copy of Fargo, she studies the briefcase of cash being stashed in the snow with fascination. She gets her hands on the company credit card and ventures off to North Dakota to hunt down the money and its totemic worth.

With an airiness that recalls both Jarmusch and at-times the aforementioned Coens, Zellner tightrope-walks between whimsical and gravid. This is a daydream, designed to tickle fancies and wonders, but with reality’s hard knocks serving as a vital bogeyman.

A treasure in itself.

First published in the Sunday Independent