Movie review: ‘Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo’ visits nation in love with bugs
In a truly odd marriage of entomology and arthouse lyricism, “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo” deftly explores Japan’s ages-old love affair with bugs of all stripes.
For the traditional culture that eventually gave us Mothra (vs. Godzilla), creepy-crawlies apparently span a crucial gap between Japan’s ancient, Zen-infused rural values and the hustle-bustle urbanization that pulses through the country today, especially in the alienating, high-tech buzz of Tokyo.
And so the American filmmaker Jessica Oreck, an insect-lover and animal keeper
at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has constructed a meditative, impressionistic documentary that looks at this phenomenon and in the process loops in gentle references to Zen gardens, banzai trees, the art of haiku and Shinto Buddhist philosophy.
When, at the film’s opening, a young Tokyo boy pleads with his father to buy him a pet beetle (price tag: $57), we quickly see that something exotic, buggy and strangely beautiful is afoot in the land of the rising sun. In this place where insects of all ilk are kept as pets, sold in stores and vending machines, depicted in videogames and feted in festivals and art shows, man’s harmonious interaction with nature clearly rests on some delicate connections.
So, despite the monster-movie suggestions of its title, this documentary takes a high road and looks at the subject from a profoundly historical, philosophical and sociological perspective.
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