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Persona

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

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Persona   

Anyone seen this yet?

Beetle.PNG

I'm going to write something up for my non-lollipop docs in a few days, but just wanted to check in and say SEE IT. Now, if it is close to you -- it's gotta be seen in a theatre.

It is the most sensuous film I've seen this year.

It is a documentary on Japan, the essence of the nation wrapped up in the study of the insects they take pride in -- beetles, dragonflies, fireflies, crickets. They revere these insects for their vitality, for the sounds they make, for the way they teach in nature.

But if it's about honor for their insect, it's also about the honor for the creation of film. It's like a love story created for the eyes -- my heart was pounding with every frame. There are images here that are soaked in miniscule beauty -- like haiku, the small poetry of the insect microverse -- and then we pull out of the insect world and study the citizens of Japan, their children, their history and religion, and their cities and the way they move. We see what the people of Tokyo might look like from a dragonfly's point of view. And then we're back on a leaf, or in a spotlight, or in a pet Beetle's cage, with a woman's voice that contains some philosophical poetic musings.

It is a wonderful, luscious doc that keeps our eyes fixed on the screen in passion, in excitement. I almost lept to my feet in applause several times only a few minutes in. Everything we love about learning from the image -- this is a classic example of image and narrative form combined, teaching us about our world.

And check out the 80s retro pop feel of the SXSW trailer below, the music heightened the fun of the experience. It drifted between this and Thom Yorke-type electronica. The two styles are so close, they blend into each other well.

edit to remind myself of a few words I want to remember to use, even if I forget all else: adventurous, unibihibited filmmaking, willing to take risks that pay off.

Edited by Persona

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Andrew   

That trailer grabbed my attention - as a lover of Japanese culture and entomology, this film is calling out to me. I'll be tracking this down like Javert after Jean Valjean.

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Persona   

From the latest Non-lollipop Docs:

The first great art-film of the year comes disguised as a documentary. Japan's insect-reverent culture is the topic at hand. I told a friend I was going to see a film about the Japanese and their love of bugs, and he said, "Oh."

I am telling you, this is a killer documentary. I believe the word I used right after the screening was, "Sensuous."

Completely uninhibited and willing to take risks, by all practical accounts the film shouldn't work. The fact that it does is a testament to the filmmakers' obvious love of the form and a willingness in general to be completely sold out to the topic. We not only get to study the fascinating bugs of Japan, which are larger and more beautiful than any bug I've ever seen, but we study the people, too, and their fascination with the little critters. They marvel at these insects for their vitality, for the sounds they make, and for the way they teach in nature.

The fascination is rooted in the 6th century in early Shinto and now Buddhist philosophy. These beautiful beetles, fireflies and crickets are a part of animist nature. According to Japanese beliefs, where the natural and the spiritual are more closely related, the universe is alive and breathing, and willing to teach -- as long as we're willing to listen. They give us insight even into ourselves.

A soft-sounding feminine narrator explains how the firefly is the signature of burning love; how the dragonfly is a symbol of warrior power; how the sound of crickets is the song of night life; how a rhinoceros beetle resembles lightning from the horns on his head, he's a guardian of power or prestige.

But if it's about honor for the insects, it's also about honor for the creation of film. The whole movie is like a love story created for the eyes -- my heart was pounding with every frame. There are images here that are soaked in miniscule beauty -- like haiku, the small poetry that was invented for the insect microverse. But then we're taken out of the insect world on a journey that shows the Tokyo crowds, Japanese children at play, the history and tradition of the religion, and the ebb and flow of their cities -- the pulse and grind of daily life. We see what the people in the streets of Tokyo might look like from a dragonfly's point of view, and then we're back on a leaf, or in a spotlight, or in a pet Beetle's cage, back with that wonderful feminine voice that narrates more philosophical musings.

It is a poetic film that keeps our eyes fixed on the screen in excitement over nature. I almost lept to my feet in applause several times only a few minutes in.

80s retro synth-pop pokes in at various points, the electro-bop heightening the fun of the experience. It drifts between this and Thom Yorke-type electronica. The two styles blend in and out of each other, giving breaks between narration which make you light up like a firefly at the wondrous sound and imagery.

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Andrew   

Didn't get to see this on the big screen - 'Best laid plans of beetles and men' and all that, so I'm glad to see it will soon be available through Netflix.

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Persona   

Didn't get to see this on the big screen - 'Best laid plans of beetles and men' and all that, so I'm glad to see it will soon be available through Netflix.

I hope your screen is huge and you have a nice dark room and a few uninterrupted moments with it.

I would love to see this on Blu-Ray.

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