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Friday, July 1, 2011

274. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo


    I have seen so much Japanese cinema over the past couple of years that I have fallen in love with the country's culture, despite never having been to the Land Of The Rising Sun.
    Combine that with the fact that documentaries are consistently my favourite form of film and surely Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo could not fail.
    I guess the reason it didn't score well, however, dates back 38 years.
    As a special present because I passed my exam to grammar school my mum and dad took me to London and specifically Regent's Park zoo.
    I remember going into the insect house and being scared to death.
    Now, all these years later, I am not as cowardly as Mrs W in the face of creepy crawlies but I am happy to keep my distance.
    Unlike the Japanese who, I have now discovered, are obsessed with insects.
    Jessica Oreck's film combines footage of this obsession with a strange lilting, almost poetic commentary which draws the historical and geographical reasons why this is so.
    No scene highlights the mania for insects more than one in a shop where a child, who has saved up his pocket money, is desperate to buy a beetle. This is not any old cockroach, you understand. This is a 50-dollar beetle and the kid only has 13 dollars. It's a real toys out of the pram moment.
    The insect industry, it transpires, is a heck of a thing in Japan.
    And at home people have collections, alive or dead, for their friends to admire.
    Really the chap who has a house full of crickets seemed so proud, yet the noise which almost reduced him to tears of joy, was driving me nuts through a TV screen.
    Every movie from Japan is revelatory and this is no exception.
    I am now aware how the Japanese dart into forests catching insects and even drink sake whose potency has been increased by deadly hornets being dunked into it.
    However, there is a limit to my attention span and Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo drifts too often into the land of the arty to keep me transfixed.
    The point at which white socks being tapped on a train is compared with the birth of a moth was a step too far. To put it bluntly, too much of the film was plain dull.
    Thus, I wanted to like it a lot more but could only muster up 5/10.

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274. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo


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