Monday, May 10, 2010

Jessica Oreck's BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO opens at Film Forum

The Film Forum press kit for Jessica Oreck's one-of-a-kind documentary BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO bears this caveat: WARNING: You may look more kindly upon your roaches after viewing.

TrustMovies didn't. On the other hand, he doesn't look at roaches in any par-
ticular dastardly light, either. In fact, Oreck's movie got him to thinking more about our dis-
tant neighbors, the Japanese, than anything else. The mysterious east seems even more so after a bout with Beetle Queen.

What is it with the connection between the Japanese and insects? Ms. Oreck (shown at left), in this, her first film, attempts to enlighten us: It's part of that island empire's history, as well as its philosophy, poetry, art (that's an enormous beetle sculpture in metal, below) and general connection to the natural world.  There are some other, less immediately obvious, ideas wiggling around the parameters, as well: entrepreneurship, religion, and the purifying of the race by blocking out all foreign influence.  Each of these bubble to the surface in this odd, sometimes endearing but often unfocused and repetitive documentary.

BQCT begins with men hunting insects (with, annoyingly, no subtitles) and we come back to this again and even again, as the film continues.  Then we see an examples of one of those "crazes" that seems to hit Japan -- and, to be fair, many other countries -- from time to time (Pet Rocks, anyone?).  But in this case, it's a craze for live beetles.  Everyone seems to want one: men, women, especially children.   I wager this is something you have never seen here in the U.S., for the Japanese citizenry seems to treat these insects as we would our cats and dogs.  (Do they take them for walks, I wonder?)

Other things that will surprise, delight, alarm or enchant you include how comfortable Japanese children seem in the touching and handling of their insects, the use of dragonflies (above) in this culture's art, and especially one scene set at night in which fireflies flicker to some lovely music.  I wish that Ms Oreck's film were a bit more focused; her organization seems scattered at best. But you'll not question her attraction to and probable love for insects (according to the press information she is a life-long insect lover and animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History). 

This quite different example of Beetlemania, from Argot Pictures, opens Wednesday, May 12, in New York City at Film Forum for ONE WEEK ONLY -- so don't lose out, Beetle fans, by expecting the usual second week that Film Forum generally offers with its theatrical debuts.  Ms Oreck herself will be appearing live (along with some live insects!) at several of the FF screenings. Click here for dates and times.

Insects lovers across the country can indulge themselves, too, it turns out, for Argot is releasing the documentary in a number of nationwide venues in the weeks and months to come.  Click here then scroll down for the cities and theaters so far scheduled.

(All photos, except that of Ms. Oreck, are from the  film itself, 
courtesy of Film Forum and Argot Pictures.)

No comments: