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Funny Face (#110 of 2)

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.

The Secret Bloodline of Audrey Hepburn

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The Secret <em>Bloodline</em> of Audrey Hepburn
The Secret <em>Bloodline</em> of Audrey Hepburn

In the mid-nineties, you couldn’t escape Audrey Hepburn; her image was everywhere. She was ceaselessly written about as a fashion icon, a major movie star, and also as an icon of benevolence. Before her death in 1993, when she journeyed into the devastation in Somalia for UNICEF, we took her seriously because of who she was and who she had been to us; we’re more skeptical now of such celebrity activism and its underlying motives, but even those who overdosed on Audrey worship can’t possibly doubt her sincerity and the strength of her outrage, for it had its roots in her own childhood deprivation under the Nazis during World War II. During the worst days of the war, she survived on grass, turnips and tulip bulbs. For a month, she had to hide in a cellar with her mother, in the dark. Just imagine that for a moment and what it must have been like, then remember how sensitive she was on screen, and consider her capacity for expressing and creating outsized joy. Garbo could do joy like that, but with her it was slightly mannered, more abstract. With Audrey Hepburn, in her best work, her feelings were as pure as cold, clean water.