My pick as one of the Top Three Greatest Living Motion Picture Directors, Hou Hsiao-hsien, gets the retrospective treatment over the next ten days at a trio of terrific venues across Seattle. It’s a truncated version of the complete retrospective organized by Richard I. Suchenski (Director, Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College), in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center, the Taiwan Film Institute, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China (Taiwan), that has been traveling the world for the past six months. The Grand Illusion and the Northwest Film Forum have joined forces to present five of Hou’s very best films on 35mm (each movie plays one night at each theatre), while Scarecrow Video supplements the series with five additional movies, presented on video free of charge in its Screening Lounge. I’ll even be there introducing movies at each venue, covering six movies in total over the next nine days.
There is a lot to like about Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. The hypnotic soundtrack by The Octopus Project is a delight. At its center is a wonderful performance from Rinko Kikuchi. Best of all is the premise. The film, based on a true story, is about a Japanese woman who believes the events depicted in her VHS copy of Fargo are real and that somewhere in the Midwest lies a bunch of money, buried in the snow by a bloodied Steve Buscemi.
An engaging opening twenty minutes establishes Kumiko as a fish-out-of-water in her homeland. She steadfastly refuses the hollow aspirations pinned on her by family and society, be they marriage or a cushy job. When tasked with watching a child for a few minutes, Kumiko panics and runs away. Unfortunately, the film becomes much more obvious once she arrives as a fish-out-of-water in America. From here, the movie mostly deals in scenes of the fanatical, clearly demented young woman (we never once explore Kumiko’s very real pain) as she gets a blitz-in-a-blizzard of Minnesota nice. Continue reading