Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo – Jessica Oreck – DVD (22/4/12) A documentary tracing the unique fascination, in Japenese culture and history, with insects. From the chirruping Crickets that are valued for their varying ambient ‘songs’ (produced through a process called ‘stridulation’ whereby one serrated wing is rubbed against the respective teeth of its other wing- the notion that the noise is created by rubbing their legs together is a myth…or so the entomological fountain of knowledge: Wikipedia, informs me!). Anyways, the documentary fuses poetry, philosophy, anthropology, bizarre and brilliant visuals and a memorable soundtrack to create a thoroughly immersive, entertaining and moving cinematic experience. Becoming much more than a factual account, Oreck’s film tactfully blends between poetic shots, redolent of essay film experimentation, eccentric voice over information (ranging from the social observations of contemporary Japan, folklore, science, poetry and philosophy), candid interviews – all alongside the raw, unadulterated footage of a day to day involvement with this under exposed and eccentric topic. Giant Luna Moths, pinned butterflies, fighting beetles, emperors and gadflies, warriors and dragonflies and the boxed song of crickets. It is an original, fascinating and, at times beautifully hypnotic, documentary that manages to convey spiritual depth without affectation or cringe-worthy navel gazing. A film that reaffirms what Western materialism, amongst other unfortunate pastimes, has engulfed, ignored and eclipsed: a simple enchantment with the natural world.
An innate appreciation opposed to the neurotic hunger to change, improve or defend against nature, or more commonly to repress any trace or interaction with nature. When cockroaches and maggots are wheeled out in bucket loads for cheap entertainment in the car crash charades of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! The shock game show sensationalism that snooty conservatives of British Television would traditionally relate to ‘Trashy Japanese Gameshows’ of yesteryear, it seems we (in all our Western gameshow glory) are now inhabiting the stereotype that was reserved for a misjudged colonial ‘them’. I am not saying that Japan is not without its extravagantly bizarre gameshows, far from it: women tying raw meat to their heads, and then placing said vulnerable craniums (loaded with blood red meaty temptation) into the tank of a Komodo Dragon…it’s out there. A simple Google search of ‘Japanese Gameshows’ will confirm this. But what I am, tangentially, suggesting is that this film communicates a value we undoubtedly are in danger of overlooking. It is the simplicity, tangible wonder and crawling, flying joy of insects. Viva la woodlouse! Hail mighty housefly! Praise the carapace, consecrate the six limbs, crown the antennae, worship the moth and…well, watch the film. 8/10