By Nathaniel Dunaway Entertainment Editor
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing a pair of films that, as well as sharing the fact that they are both great movies, share similar themes, chiefly that of the complicated female protagonist on the edge of society. They involve ladies who are loners, who are strange, and are therefore unwelcome strangers to those around them. Before breaking down each film more, I’ll just say this: both are highly recommended, and both are currently playing for a limited time at the incomparable Salem Cinema.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
3 paws out of 4
The first word that comes to mind when thinking about this film is “style.” It’s dripping with it. Shot in gorgeous black and white and self-described as “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western,” “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is the story of The Girl, a nameless, lonely vampire, played by Iranian-American actress Sheila Vand.
The Girl stalks the streets of Bad City, a small hamlet of perpetual squalor, where there is (among other things) a ditch full of corpses that no one seems to pay much attention to. Newcomer Arash Marandi also stars as a greaser punk who becomes transfixed by The Girl. The cat that plays Arash’s pet cat in the film is also a great performer. The film is based on a graphic novel by Ana Lily Amirpour, who also directed.
In a recent interview with “The Moveable Fest,” Amirpour, when asked why she gravitates towards horror, replied: “Do you think it’s a horror film? If there’s a vampire in the story, you’re in a certain realm. But I think it’s more like a John Hughes film than it is a horror film.”
My only disclaimer is that if you’re put off by black and white movies or by subtitles, do the following: get over it, and go see this movie.
“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”
3 ½ paws out of 4
In 2001, a Japanese woman named Takako Konishi was found dead in a snowy field in Minnesota. According to an article by Paul Berczeller in “The Guardian,” a misunderstanding between Konishi and the local police a few days before her death led to the media believing she had died while looking for the money hidden by Steve Buscemi’s character in the film “Fargo” (in reality, Konishi’s death was ruled a suicide). This led to an urban legend surrounding the event, and that urban legend led to the film “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,” which takes this seemingly absurd premise and runs with it, to deeply troubling results.
Directed by David Zellner, the film stars Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (“Pacific Rim”) as Kumiko, a socially awkward, solitary woman living in Tokyo, who is obsessed with treasure-hunting. On one of her adventures, she discovers a damaged VHS copy of the film “Fargo,” and believes it to be a clue to finding a large stash of money, which Steve Buscemi’s character in the film buries in a field. Convinced of the movie’s authenticity, Kumiko steals her boss’s company credit card and travels to Minnesota to find a treasure that isn’t actually there.
The film does an expert job of sticking with Kumiko, focusing loyally on her quixotic journey, and of making Minnesota feel more foreign to the audience than Tokyo. Like “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” Kumiko also features an impressive performance by an animal, this time a pet rabbit named Bunzo.
My disclaimer for this film, the first half of which is entirely subtitled Japanese, is the same: get over it, and go see it