Directed by David Zellner (2014)
In many ways the premise of this one outshines the actual film itself, which is still quite solid. It’s a terrifically inventive device: a depressed, lonely, 29-year-old Japanese “office lady” stumbles upon a VHS tape of the film “Fargo” and undergoes a holy-grail quest for a briefcase full of thousands of dollars that is buried in the rural North Dakota/Minnesota snow during the film. See, “Fargo” has opening credits that posit, “this is a true story”, and Kumiko, in dramatic need of something to propel her nothing-filled existence forward, grasps onto this break from her dreary reality for dear life.
While the film’s quiet pacing and sparse filmscapes lay a heavy hand to match Kumiko’s all-consuming depression, be assured that there’s a healthy bit of this film that is played solely for laughs. Once the nearly broke Kumiko makes it out of Japan by stealing a credit card from her boss and arrives in Minneapolis, there are several well-meaning bumpkins that try to help her get to her destination (Fargo!), despite a comic inability to communicate. One matronly woman gives her an English-language copy of book “Shogun” in an attempt to relate; a police officer takes her to a Chinese restaurant, in case the owners there might be able to better understand her Japanese than he can.
Beyond this, though, there is quiet a bit of sadness and some subtle commentary about the state of women in modern Japanese culture. In Japan, deviation by women from the cultural norm still continues to be massively frowned upon, and Kumiko is considered “washed-up” by her place of employment and by her own mother simply for not having a baby by her advanced late-twenties age. As a depressed woman, it’s clear that she’s not taken particularly seriously by her society, which fails to recognize her as such. So she fashions herself a swashbuckling adventurer off to find buried treasure, and since such fairy tales aren’t really told with any credibility any longer, she latches on to the one that’s most believable – the “true story” that’s not particularly convincing when told within the very fictional “Fargo”.