on October 09, 1996 by Lea Russo
   Forget amoebas on Mars--there's a whole planet of creatures waiting to be marveled over in biologists Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perrennou's documentary, "Microcosmos." A vivid and magical exploration of the microscopic world of insects, this film is so beautiful and technologically advanced it makes The Discovery Channel's shows look like junior-high biology experiments.
   Unlike many nature-themed films, "Microcosmos" has very little narration. Instead, the documentary relies on a barrage of heightened sights and sounds to reveal its subjects. We hear the shuffle of a ladybug crawling up a vine; the sounds of clashing pincers as two beetles duel; and the whispery flutter of butterflies opening their wings. The images are even more impressive: a mosquito rising from the water looks like an angel ascending to heaven, all brilliant white with long flowing wings.
   Based on a day in the life of the insect kingdom, "Microcosmos" is at its most fascinating and funny when depicting the humanistic qualities of insects (or, perhaps, the insect-like qualities of humans). At one point, an exhausted beetle struggles to roll a large ball of dirt over rough terrain. The determined beetle must overcome obstacles and mistakes, regardless of how fruitless the cause may seem. Though "Microcosmos" is a rare technical achievement, the film at times becomes tiresome, for the filmmakers skip from insect to insect rather than lingering a while. We get pin-ups instead of profiles, and it's not enough to sustain our interest. Yet those who love the little things in life shouldn't miss this film, and even those who find bugs repulsive may want to take another closer look. Directed by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perrennou. Produced by Jacques Perrin, Christophe Barratier and Yvette Mallet. A Miramax release. Documentary. Rated G. Running time: 74 min. Opens 10/9 NY, 10/11 LA
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