Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tokyo Destroyed Again

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (2009) - Oreck
Rainbow Beetle at whopping $47!
More of an anthropological essay than straight-up documentary, Beetle Queen shows the latest craze in Japanese culture- bug collecting. With a typical Japanese woman's voice over(courteous yet sultry), we get to see and hear the urban landscapes, lights, cars, trains and people juxtaposed with close ups of bugs, mountains, forests, rice paddies etc. It shows how Japanese see the world in microcosm and simplicity through Shintoism and Zen Buddhism- haiku, zen rock garden, bonzai trees... Therefore, bugs are seen as logical connection btwn human and nature.

With sight and sound skillfully put together, Beetle Queen is a very hypnotic, seductive film. It's a delight to gaze upon the excited children's face as they marvel on these giant bugs and hear elders talking about their prized items with nostalgia. It reminds strongly of Chris Marker films but much more intimate and inviting.

Once You Go Black...

Black Snake Moan (2006) - Brewer
You've all seen the poster: half naked Christina Ricci chained up, kneeling before towering Sam Jackson in his dirty wife beater. When Black Snake Moan came out, I just rolled my eyes and didn't give it a second thought. Recently my musician friend played some songs from the film, sung by Sam Jackson hisself and man oh man, he can really bring it on. So why not, I'll bite that race bait, I thought.

First off, I'd be lying if I didn't enjoy seeing Ricci chained by the waist writhing about. She's got one fine bod. But behind all the trappings, Black Snake Moan is a tender love story with a capital t. Combining race, music, Jesus and booze in American South, Brewer succeeds in telling a sweet story of redemption and change without being coy.

Ricci plays Rae, a little nymphet with a fucked up childhood, who can't seem to close her legs up and Sam Jackson is Lazarus who, after getting dumped by his wife for his brother, sets out to fix Rae up in her wicked ways even if it means chaining her to the radiator which has been warming his house all these years. Lazarus, a retired blues musician, is far from a saint. But he wants to help the poor girl.

It's a Sam Jackson show. Lazarus is a very well developed, fully three dimensional character. Even though Rae comes off as a little too stereotypical whitetrash whore, still retains her humanism by Ricci's volatile/vulnerable performance. Justin Timberlake is also pretty good as an army vet/ messed up kid who gets to be taught a lesson by a big balding black man. Honestly, who wouldn't want shouting Sam Jackson to be their relationship counselor?