Film Forum

In Search of Cinematic Treasure

There’s a sense of childish mystery in “The Treasure” from IFC Films.

There’s a sense of childish mystery in “The Treasure” from IFC Films.

Treasure-hunting movies have abounded since the dawn of cinema, as old as the first scenes of pirates and with many swashbuckling scenes filled with anger and bad accents.

Before we went searching for ancient masonic treasure hidden in national landmarks in Nicolas Cage’s awful franchise — never mind toward which side of the Disney spectrum you sway — the 1950’s brought Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1838 novel “Treasure Island” to life.

Before my generation fell in love with “Treasure Planet,” also inspired by Mr. Stevenson but with a much happier ending than his novel imagined, “The Goonies” brought us Chunk, a most affable character who befriended the villain’s deformed brother, Sloth with a Baby Ruth candy bar and screams. Lots of screams. (There’s treasure too, strewn about somewhere in a tunnel below the city along with “booby-traps” and more swords and pirate hats. But Chunk, to this day, will be my favorite recollection of the Goonies.)

Look at how cute that face is! Both, really. But Chunk’s cheeks - priceless.

Look at how cute that face is! Both, really. But Chunk’s cheeks – priceless.

Treasure hunting has even graced the wondrous screen of The Tower Theater in the recent past when Filmworks screened Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter in April 2015. Fresno moviegoers got a rare treat: getting to meet and greet the director, David Zellner, who I think shares a characteristic or two, oddly enough, with the deadpan comedy and satire of Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu. From the looks of the trailer for “The Treasure” — Filmworks’ screening on March 11 — the film might be as oddly enticing as Kumiko’s journey. (Kumiko’s bunny, Bunzo, was definitely a crowd favorite.)

No treasure hunting movie is complete without your friendly neighborhood sidekick.

No treasure hunting movie is complete without your friendly neighborhood sidekick.

And then there’s this Best of Treasure Hunt/Adventure films IMDB list, with every assorted kid movie you can remember, stretching the theme “treasure hunting” a bit far. It includes Indiana Jones’ archaeologist leanings vs. villains’ plunder of ancient artifacts for sale — the holy grail is a treasure indeed! — or Aladdin’s search for the genie’s magic lamp, or Humphrey Bogart wooing the ladies once again in 1948 with “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

So, what about treasure? This latest treasure movie isn’t necessarily a kid’s movie, like many of those listed above. In Porumboiu’s “The Treasure,” Costi, the main character, calls himself a Robin Hood for his son.  Through searching the soil, he hopes to be a hero throughout the development of the story, thereby transforming himself into his own legend or fable.

There’s a sense of childish mystery in the pursuit, a desperate hope, a belief that the metal detector within your hands will lead you to your destiny. It’s man and child in one.

Metal Detector

You go and find it. We believe.

So does Costi find the treasure in the end? We will have to see the movie! There is, however, a “legend” on the Internet, a story of a Romanian family who found a similar treasure on a similar plot of land not too long ago: first finding the cache with a clunky detector they’d purchased and then joyously plucking it from the soil. But there’s a twist to the end of this story, and I’m hoping, expecting, a twist at the end of Porumboiu’s.

Your choice: discover the story for yourself and see the adolescent joy of treasure hunting mixed with Porumboiu’s sardonic humor, or stay home on another Friday night and wonder what might be buried in your own backyard (or beneath the historic Tower Theater). You dig?

Megan Ginise studies journalism and public relations at Fresno State. She currently serves as the Filmworks development assistant.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.