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Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

A languid examination of the Japanese fascination with insects

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Its Godzilla-sounding title notwithstanding, Jessica Oreck's film is a documentary which explores the Japanese obsession with insects. We meet entomologists, old men who value crickets for their song, unsqueamish children who buy bugs with their allowance money and professional bug collectors -- including one who has purchased a Ferrari with his earnings. There are some interesting ideas here: Where we 'Mericans super-size everything from French fries to F-150s, the film suggests that the Japanese are entranced by recasting the world in miniature. Some of its visual sequences are haunting -- a lyrical depiction of a firefly festival, for example -- and it's a trip to see kids playing Mortal Kombat-style video games involving stag beetles. But these charms are offset by the film's plodding pace -- it's a half-hour longer than it should be -- and its somewhat superficial read on Japanese culture. (Does anyone still need to be told that the haiku celebrates nature's transient beauty?) It's telling, perhaps, that while watching a DVD screener of Beetle Queen, my wife spent 15 minutes trying to swat a fly -- and finally smooshed it against the TV screen. In Japanese and some English, with subtitles. Fri., Aug. 20, through Tue., Aug. 24. Melwood

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