Tuesday, 10 March 2015

REVIEW - KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER (DAVID ZELLNER)


A new form of expression, or at least one so underused as to feel new. David and Nathan Zellner know where to look, then, to find ways of making their artistic proposals seem fresh, necessary particularly when they're so boldly moulding their career after two other Midwestern filmmakers. What's most fascinating about Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is not the content of its themes but the manner of their presentation. The Zellners succeed in risking profundity in favour of comedy, and while Kumiko is certainly a funny film, it's also impressively eloquent through its humour. The tone is neither droll nor mocking, it's actually fairly austere, even tragic; the comedy is expressed in broad, clear devices, and these are also how David and Nathan express their thematic concerns. How they achieve both simultaneously is remarkable, not least for the relative originality of such a gambit. Their main character, Kumiko, remains terrified and taciturn for much of the film, but she is a richly drawn role: depicted as a destructive force, unwittingly so, and one whose confused rejection of both the constraints of tradition and the conveniences of modernity situate her in a place and time almost devoid of purpose or context. Savvy costume choices set her apart from the world around her, while Kikuchi Rinko offers insight into whatever world she inhabits, though not too deep an insight as to upset the integrity of the character. There is, in both her work and the Zellner brothers', an obstinate denial of the now commonplace language of American independent film, albeit only a subtle subversion, ostensibly. To our eyes, it feels new and fresh, and extremely effective.