In search of Fargo

Is there a clue to ‘real’ buried treasure in classic Coen brothers film?4Kumiko, the Treasure HunterOpens Friday, April 3. Pageant Theatre. Not rated.

Rated 4.0

The title character in this mildly comical, low-key fantasy/treasure hunt is a young Japanese woman who lives alone and works at a spectacularly dull office job. In the scenario cooked up by the Zellner brothers—David (who also directs) and Nathan (who is a producer)—Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is taken with the notion that the Coen brothers’ Fargo is a documentary and that her beat-up VHS copy of that 1996 film reveals the exact location of the suitcase full of cash that Steve Buscemi is seen burying in a snow-covered field.

Her overbearing mother and her flaky friends from school and work all clamor for her company, but she prefers solitude and bits of playtime with a tiny pet rabbit named Bunzo. When she gets fed up with serving as one of her boss’ identically dressed “Office Ladies,” she absconds with a company credit card and heads for Minnesota.

Much of the film seems surreal in a cold and almost abstract way. The scrawny warmth that keeps sparking the story back to life (in spite of the bleak, lifeless settings that predominate in Japan and Minnesota alike) is partly a matter of Kikuchi’s quietly luminous performance, partly a matter of the wry comedy of manners that trickles through the Minnesota scenes. And perhaps best of all, there’s the Zellners’ success in keeping the atmosphere of fairy tale alive in the unlikeliest of circumstances.