‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ Hits Cinematic Gold

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Rinko Kikuchi stars as Kumiko in "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter."

Credit: Courtesy of Amplify

(WOMENSENEWS)–"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" just opened March 18 and I can’t wait to see it again. This femme-centric thriller explores the potent effects movies have on viewers, particularly in a cross-cultural context. Rinko Kikuchi stars as Kumiko, a young and disenfranchised Japanese woman who finds a VHS of the Coen brothers’ movie "Fargo" and becomes convinced she will find the buried treasure at the heart of that story, which she believes to be true. Claiming the treasure will spring her from her dreary and demeaning secretarial job and the ceaseless criticisms of her overbearing mother, Kumiko maps out a plan that takes her from Tokyo to rural North Dakota. As the road trip progresses she becomes increasingly desperate and demented. Kikuchi’s performance is mesmerizing. No spoilers here. This movie is stunning and full of surprises.

"Amour Fou," which also opened March 18 and is directed by Jessica Hausner, is an odd period biopic based on the final days of 19th century German poet Heinrich von Kleist (Chrstian Friedel), who ended his life in a suicide pact with Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnoeink), a terminally ill housewife. Kleist believed that the commitment to die together is the expression of true love. Whether you find that notion morbid or romantic or both, the film engages with superb performances, exquisite cinematography and gorgeous period detail. In German, with English subtitles.

March 20 Openers

"Insurgent," the next installment in the popular "Divergent" franchise, stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice Prior, the heroic young woman who continues to fight to protect her people from annihilation. There’s the usual explosion of battle action and dazzling special effects, but Woodley’s rich and evolving feminist characterization sets this series apart from other blockbuster concoctions aimed at young adults.

In "Accidental Love," a small town waitress (Jessica Biel) accidentally gets a nail lodged in her brain and, unable to afford medical treatment, heads off to Washington, D.C., to lobby her congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal) for universal health insurance. They fall in love. The romancedy, based on "Sammy’s Hill" by Kristin Gore (daughter of Al and Tipper), who co-wrote the screenplay, has a problem-laden history. David O. Russell signed on as director in 2008, quit in 2010 and distanced himself from the release by giving directorial credit to Stephen Green, who is nonexistent. If you’re guessing that I don’t recommend this one, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

"Spring," a romance with horror and sci-fi trappings, follows a young, depressed American (Lou Taylor Pucci) on a feel-better trip to Italy where he’s captivated by a mysterious young woman who gradually reveals her very dark and threatening secrets. The premise is familiar, but the setup is smart, the cinematic elements effective and performances compelling. If you like horror, you’ll enjoy the twists.

"Jauja" is a father-daughter drama in which Viggo Mortenson stars as a 19th century Danish engineer who brings his adolescent daughter (Ghita Norby) with him on a posting to remote Patagonia. She wants her independence and runs off and he, bereft, pursues her. The performances are complex and compelling. This luminous period Western employs lush cinematography to create a stunning sense of place and time that invites you in for a watchful meditation with some galvanizing emotional changes.

I’ve already reviewed "The Hunting Ground," Kirby Dick’s documentary expose of rampant rape and sexual harassment on college campuses. But please note that it opens in wider release on March 20. It is a must-see for its content and cinematic excellence.

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