Have Passport, Will Travel For Film: ‘Global Lens Series’ At MFA

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Of the movies traveling the country for film festival season, the next visitors to “The Global Lens” series have not an English-language film among them. Subtitles for all 10 films, including imports from Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan and Serbia. The series will stay from June 7 to 19 at the Museum of Fine Arts.

With a varied selection of films coming from the four corners of the earth, the compilation has themes ranging from coming-of-age stories to surreal experiences. Some stories feel documentary-like in their gritty realism; other movies lighten the mood with their whimsy and imaginative concepts.

One example of this dichotomy is “The Fantastic World of Juan Orol” ("El Fantástico Mundo De Juan Orol") by Sebastián del Amo. This is del Amo’s answer to Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” tribute, which both plays against Orol’s legacy and pays respect to his B-movie contributions. Indeed Juan Orol was not unlike the schlock master Wood or even Roger Corman in his earnest work on some awful pictures. The movie is told in flashback with cheeky narration, detailing his dubious start as a cameraman filming the Mexican army’s public executions. With bullheaded determination, Orol pushes his way into the film business with a slew of gangster pictures. It is a long, but not illustrious or lucrative career, and even somber moments are done in a highly irreverent fashion. “The Fantastic World” is colored by its own sense of camp: frivolous movie montages, unreal casting couch scenarios, and the amusing trick of changing the picture from black and white to color when Orol changes the film stock for his own movies.

On the other side of the globe and tone, we find the Chinese entry from director Zhang Yuan, “Beijing Flickers.” Centered on disaffected and depressed youths in an ever-changing city, “Beijing Flickers” could have taken place in any major metropolitan area where the haves and the have-nots are pushed further away from each other towards opposite ends of the income bracket. The main character San Bao attempts to commit suicide after he loses his job and home, his girlfriend leaves him to marry a rich man, and his dog runs away. But after surviving hell week, he discovers all is not lost in the recession with the help of fellow struggling misfits. It’s an optimistic twist from where the movie begins, though not without its rough spots. Despite first finding many of his new friends rather annoying, director Zhang Yuan works the story so that San Bao’s compatriots grow on him. It’s a fine character study that advocates for the sanctity of friendship and camaraderie.

That’s just a tiny slice of the family dramas, absurdist comedies, and personal stories cherry picked from around the world. If you were ever curious about modern Chilean cinema or you missed the Iranian film festival, now is your chance to catch up or try something different. You can explore the other selections on the MFA website.  And as always, happy travels!

Monica Castillo is a freelance film critic and writer based in Boston. You can usually find her outside any of the area’s movie theaters excitedly talking about the film she just saw or on Twitter @mcastimovies.

This article was originally published on June 07, 2013.

This program aired on June 7, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.