"Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" is a documentary about the Japanese people's age-old love affair with insects Knowing absolutely nothing about why the people of Japan view insects as creatures worthy of respect, even adoration (a trait I suspect is totally alien to people in the West where the natural reaction is to tread on them), I was eager to see this documentary which is part of the documentary season at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival. The filmmaker Jessica Oreck is a lifelong insect lover, and also animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Unfortunately, having an abiding passion for insects does not necessarily mean that one can just pick up a camera and start making a documentary. The age-old maxim about the closer one is to the subject, the less likely one is able to be objective about that subject, certainly holds true in this documentary. My main complaint about this film is the way it jumps from one subject to another, without any rhyme or reason, and then back again. Is the scene looking down on people cross a busy intersection holding up umbrellas meant to be a metaphor for how insects behave? What about the scene where all we see of a person is their foot? This film is let down by annoyingly sloppy camera-work. There are scenes that are completely out of focus. And the hand-held shots are so tight, and wobbly, one doesn't get a sense of what is meant to be happening. At the end of the day, it's down to the director to make sure that the camera-work is sharp, correctly focused and helps drive the film's narrative. Which brings me back full circle that is, for the director to let someone with a more objective eye, make the kind of film this subject matter so richly deserves. That said, "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" is still a fascinating, and bizarre film that details how beetles are captured, to insect-dispensing machines and upmarket insect shops where a single purchase can set you back $90,000. Four out of ten
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