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Ethan Coen (#110 of 38)

Berlinale 2014 Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

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Berlinale 2014: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Berlinale 2014: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Obnoxiously, David and Nathan Zellner bill themselves as “The Zellner Brothers.” It offhandedly suggests Joel and Ethan Coen before Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a film that deliberately suggests the work of the Coens, even begins. Opening on a fuzzy, out-of-focus title card reading, in part, “This is a true story,” the film carefully builds its core mystery. The titular sullen twentysomething (Rinko Kikuchi) works days as a secretary in Tokyo: showing up late, less perky than her colleagues, ritually spitting in her boss’s tea. In her own time, she follows arcane maps to secret caves, retrieving buried VHS tapes. Those tapes contain a secret, an oblique chart pointing to a hidden treasure.

No use belaboring it: Kumiko is looking for the buried briefcase in the Coens’ Fargo, the one a bloodied Steve Buscemi buries along a North Dakota highway, marked with a red ice scraper. Convinced she’s located the “treasure,” Kumiko tearfully bids goodbye to her pet bunny rabbit, steals her boss’s corporate credit card, and heads to Minnesota, en route to Fargo.

New York Film Festival 2013: Inside Llewyn Davis Review

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New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em> Review

“An odyssey where the main character doesn’t go anywhere,” as Ethan Coen put it in the Q&A after the New York Film Festival press screening of the film, Inside Llewyn Davis begins at the Gaslight Café, a fictional Greenwich Village coffeehouse, in 1961. After watching the title character (a mesmerizing Oscar Isaac) perform a soulful interpretation of an old folk song and then get beaten up in an inky back alley, we circle back in time to follow him as he couch-surfs his way around New York, hitches rides to Chicago and back, and visits, you suspect, just about everyone he loves or needs something from: his enraged ex-lover, Jean (Carey Mulligan); his sister (Jeanine Serralles), whose patience is fraying fast; his impossible-to-please father (Stan Carp), who’s wasting away in a nursing home; his deceptively abusive, apparently avuncular agent, Mel (Jerry Grayson); and the kind, middle-aged couple (Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett) whose comfortably bohemian-ish apartment is the closest thing Llewyn has to a home base.

Watch the Official Trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis

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Watch the Official Trailer for <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>
Watch the Official Trailer for <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em>

“The Coen brothers switch gears so often and with such gleeful finesse that their restlessness can no longer qualify as genre-hopping pastiche, if it ever did. At this point they’re simply a style unto themselves, a self-sufficient duo with a built in audience, art-house cred, and, when they want to indulge, box-office potential. Inside Llewyn Davis, then, isn’t a curveball so much as another stopover on a now-two-decade-plus journey that’s taken on noir, slapstick, thriller, western, and everything in between. It’s also one of their strongest recent efforts, an alternately world-weary and hilarious ode to a period of relatively recent vintage that’s nonetheless cherished as an era of new ideas, free-thinking, and artistic progression.”

To read the rest of Jordan Cronk’s review, click here.

Below is the official trailer for the film, which CBS Films will release on December 6, in addition to one of two new stills also released today (the other is at the top of this post):