Friday, June 12, 2009 | 12:31 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
The title promises a much livelier, more irreverent take on the material, but the documentary "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" is a disappointingly tedious slog through a seemingly fascinating subject. Director Oreck, an American, takes on the peculiar Japanese cultural fascination with insects. In Japan, keeping bugs as pets is commonplace, and various species (beetles, dragonflies, fireflies) are enshrined in national myths and celebrated in popular culture. The movie eventually lays all of this out, but it’s obscured by lengthy, enervating scenes of daily life in Japan, as well as a narrator who speaks more poetically and cryptically (in Japanese) than illuminatingly about the role of insects in Japanese history and society.
Some of Oreck’s bug-related encounters are fascinating on their own: She tags along with a beetle salesman as he heads into the wilderness to catch his wares, films a family of young children playing with their new pet beetles and documents plenty of insect hatchings, feedings and writhings in supremely icky close-ups. But most of these moments lack context, and even when a Japanese professor finally appears onscreen to explain (in English) some of the connections between Japanese identity and insect life, it’s too little, too late.
(Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars)