More an Exploration of Japanese Culture than a Movie about Bugs
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, despite its tongue in cheek title, is a quiet, minimalist study of the Japanese obsession with insects that also sheds light on Japanese culture and outlook on life. As such, it touches on subjects as varied as entomology and Shinto Buddhism, with a meditation on the Japanese concept of beauty to boot.
The film is at its best when it helps us understand why its subjects have such a deep attachment to insects. One example of this is its discussion of the keeping of singing insects such as crickets as pets. Listening on the interviewee's discussion of the beauty of cricket song, I found myself wanting some crickets myself. The film largely avoids the temptation to treat its subjects as camp figures.
The film's minimalist approach and low budget at times act as a hindrance. For instance, the film tends to spend too much time simply watching the streets of Tokyo without relating what we see to the film's subject. Furthermore, the camera work is weak, with night shots in particular being unfocused.
Ultimately, Beetle Queen is an acquired taste, and definitely not for all audiences. It will be best appreciated by people with a serious interest in Japanese culture.
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