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Angles and Insects

dung beetle
Charles Peterson

Been There, Dung That: A persistent, patient dung beetle is one of the heroes of the new nature documentary "Microcosmos."

It's a small world in 'Microcosmos'

By Richard von Busack

PARENTS ARE ALWAYS ASKING what they can take their children to see. They could certainly take them to see Microcosmos, a beautiful French documentary on insect and pond life, ranging from good-sized spiders to bugs so small that a raindrop literally knocks them for a loop. An hour seems to be the exact amount of time the average man, woman or child can watch animals without narration, though, so children may start to get restless near the end.

Microcosmos begins with a swooping shot, just like the one near the beginning of Blue Velvet, showing us the life teeming at the roots of the grass. With a very big lens, high-speed film and infinite patience, the filmmakers observe insects in birth and death and copulation. There are quite suspenseful scenes of a stag beetle fight, the cute-as-a-bug mating of lady bugs, the pious hypocrisy of the praying mantis--I wouldn't want to anthropomorphize much more than that, since there is no narration probably for just that reason. There is a certain amount of anthropomorphizing in the Dead Can Dance­style choral soundtrack, which supplies dissonant, angst-filled sounds for a parade of caterpillars and a lullaby for wasp larvae sleeping in the hive. One outstanding sequence: the struggles of a dung beetle to roll a dung ball home after it accidentally immobilizes it on a thorn. When this beetle--who is smarter than a few people I've met--actually managed to free his cargo, the theater burst into applause.

Microcosmos (Unrated; 77 min.), a documentary by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou.

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From the December 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro

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