Microcosmos (1996)

Cannes Film Festival (Out of Competition) 1996–A documentary about bugs created a minor sensation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it world-premieredit even started a bidding war among American distributors before Miramax landed the picture.

Both informative and entertaining, “Microcosms” personalizes the world of insects and other invertebrates in a way that wants you to know more about that aspect of Nature. In its attention to minutiae details, “Microcosmos” reveals awe and grandeur, but also sly and subtle humor.

The docu is short (only 77 minutes), which is a plus, and it's co-directed in such exhilarating mode by French biologist-filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou that it doesn't presume any preliminary knowledge of–or interest in–the subject.

Like a good Hollywood film, the film's tone changes from drama to suspense (of survival) to comedy (slapstick) to eroticism, covering the whole gamut of emotions and behaviors. And it does it in a way that both maintains the “mystique” of Nature and also tries to understand it from a more detached, but not dry or academic perspective.

The insects and bugs are depicted over the course of one long day in a meadow in the French countryside as they are seen engaged in all the routine activities that we humans are involved in, walking, eating, dating, making love, buzzing and guarding, clicking and flapping their wings (if the have ones).

Perhaps the greatest achievement is that “Microcosmos' is not like science project or after-school lecture. The narration, which blessedly is kept to a minimum, describes facts we need to know, like the impact of the seasons and weather changes on their conduct.
The directors said in the press conference that it took them about ten years of painstaking research, preparation, shooting, and editing to complete what began as a labor of love and turned into an amazing film.

A major challenge was to find the right microscopic technical equipment to penetrate and shoot the bugs' exotic world without threatening their subjects–or changing their patterns of conduct as a result of the cameras' presence. During the feature, we get to see this universe from stunning overhead and long shots as well as from more intimate and even mega close-ups. Occasionally, the cameras draw back from close-ups of ants, bees, spiders and beetles to give a glimpse of the larger world in which they live.

One day, a compilation of erotic scenes and sexy kisses would include a hilarious scene
from “Microcosmos,” a docu that keeps surprising with many eye-popping moments of humming birds as raucous suckers, time-lapse shots of flowers, insects with tiny feet on the surface of a pond.
Endowed with larger-than-life personalities, the cast members receive their honorable position in the end credits by being identified as the ladybird with seven spots, a swallowtail butterfly, a caterpillar, a spider, and even a mosquito.

Credits

Running Time: 77 Minutes.

Miramax release in the U.S. of a Galatee Films/France 2 Cinema/BAC Films/Delta Images/Les Prods. JMH Television Suisse Romande/Urania Films production, with the participation of Canal Plus.
Produced by Jacques Perrin, Christophe Barratier, Yvette Mallet
Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou.
Camera: Nuridsany, Perennou, Hughes Ryffel, Thierry Machado.
Editor: Marie-Josephe Yoyotte, Florence Ricard.
Music: Bruno Coulais.
Sound: Philippe Barbeau, Bernard Leroux.

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