FRIDAY, APRIL 25
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY The most commercially successful non-narrative film ever made, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic is still spectacular — and spectacularly mystifying. A series of vignettes that mix satire, sanctimony, and sheer freakout, the movie opens with apes learning how to use tools, then makes a famed visual transition into the space age. An unearthly artifact has been found, and astronauts are dispatched to Jupiter to learn more. Along the way, overemotional spaceship computer HAL (a simple code for IBM) decides to turn on the crew, leaving only one survivor to experience the final sequence, an LSD-age vision of death and rebirth. Restored in the year it once attempted to foretell, 2001 looks great. Even though its ground-breaking special effects have been widely borrowed, they retain the power to dazzle. As for the wisp of a story — well, its vagueness has actually prevented it from dating as badly as most visions of the future. To May 1 at American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
SECRET SUNSHINE Reportedly wrenching, Korean director Lee Chang-dong's drama is about a grieving mother. The director will appear at both screenings. (Also 4/27 at AFI.) (2007, 142 min) 7 pm, Freer/Sackler Galleries, 12th & Independence Ave SW. Free; tickets distributed one hour before screening.
THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES The third film in the 1987-94 trilogy by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami is based on one scene from its predecessor, And Life Goes On, in which two young people explain to a visiting film director that they decided to proceed with their wedding despite the deaths of many family members in the recent earthquake. In just the sort of gentle irony that's ideally suited to the filmmaker's method, it turns out that the man who played the new husband, Hossein Rezai, had in real life been unsuccessfully courting the woman who played the new wife, Taherah Ladania. Kiarostami made the twosome's off-screen story the basis of Trees, and cast them to play themselves. Both offhand and arty, much of the movie seems as ramshackle as its ruined locations and as perversely stubborn as its central character. It all coalesces with unexpected grace, however, in the final scene. 7 pm, Mary Pickford Theater, Library of Congress Madison Building, Third Floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free; call 202-707-5677 for reservations.
THE MAGIC FLUTE Ingmar Bergman's film of Mozart's masterpiece is considered on the best opera films ever. (1975, 135 min) (Also 4/27 & 28) 7 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
CAPE FEAR Robert Mitchum plays against Gregory Peck in the original of this revenge drama, remade in 1991 with Robert De Niro trying to rival Mitchum's menace. (1962, 105 min) (Also 4/26, 27, & 30 & May 1) 9:45 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
SATURDAY, APRIL 26
DARK VICTORY Bette Davis — playing a woman she called "98 percent me" — alternately rollicks and despairs after learning that she has an inoperable brain tumor. (1939, 104 min) (Also 4/28) 12:30, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
OASIS Jong-du and Gong-ju are residents of a scuzzy-looking Seoul where family propriety is merely a front for self-interest. The former is a 28-year-old ne'er-do-well just released from serving a term for vehicular manslaughter; the latter is a young woman with cerebral palsy, locked away in a small apartment and mostly ignored by her indifferent caretakers. Gong-ju happens to be the daughter of Jong-du's victim, and they meet when Jong-du attempts an apology. He's quickly sent packing, but returns when Gong-ju is alone. Despite Jong-du's poor impulse control, he and Gong-ju become friends and, perhaps, lovers. Aside from a few fantasy sequences in which Gong-ju is not palsied, Korean director Lee Chang-dong's audacious melodrama doesn't prettify its central characters. But their inability to appear normal — which disturbs many bystanders — doesn't mean they're as corrupt as their respective families, both of which have disgraceful secrets. There is no oasis for these two, by the way: The title refers to the image on wall hanging (which Gong-ju finds scary) in the apartment where she lives. The director will appear at this screening. (2002, 132 min) 2:45, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
THE LETTER In William Wyler's Malaysia-set melodrama, Bette Davis plays a woman who killed her lover, and now needs her husband's help to beat a murder charge. (1940, 95 min) (Also 4/27 & 29) 6 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
I'LL SHOW YOU THE TOWN One of the classic silent comedies of the now largely forgotten Reginald Denny, this is the tale of a poor professor who must move nimbly to escape being trapped in a scandal. The film will be accompanied by a live organist. (1925, 102 min) 4 pm, National Gallery of Art, East Building auditorium. Free.
THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN This is the "epic tale" of a Midwestern farmer who becomes an outcast while combining traditional family farming with art. Screenings sponsored by the Washington Film Institute. 7 & 9 pm, Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St NW. RSVP required: http://www.dcfilminstitute.org/INVITE/main.php
PITFALL Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara's first feature, written by regular collaborator Kobo Abe, is a ghost story about a miner followed by a mystery man in a white suit. (1962, 97 min) (Also 4/27 & 29 & May 1) 8 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
SUNDAY, APRIL 27
COMEDY OF POWER Director Claude Chabrol forgoes his customary Hitchcockian climax for a quiet account of a magistrate's battle against high-level graft. Isabelle Huppert plays Jeanne, an unassuming but incorruptible woman who follows the money until a lot of well-connected people, including her boss, begin to get nervous. Meanwhile, Jeanne's marriage unravels. Although the film is more rueful than shocking, and has gently humorous moments, the English title is misleading. A more accurate translation would be "The Rapture of Power." Sponsored by Cinema Art Bethesda. 10 am, Landmark Bethesda Row, Woodmont & Bethesda Aves, Bethesda.
ARRANGED Set mostly in Brooklyn, this film finds trans-religious rapport in the stories of two young women who face the same problem: their elders' matchmaking. Rochel, an Orthodox Jew, and Nasira, a traditional Muslim, teach together in a Brooklyn public school. Although their families and neighbors are suspicious, the two soon become friends. They bond in opposition to the principal, who chides them both for being old-fashioned, but also because they're each being presented with potential husbands they find unacceptable. Inspired by a true story, Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer's film is a sterling example of the low-budget Amerindie film. If ultimately a little glib, the movie is well-made and clearly heartfelt. (2007, 89 min) 1 pm, Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center $13.
PEPPERMINT CANDY Moving in chronological reverse through Korea's transition from dictatorship to democracy, this is the story of a former soldier and policeman who's reassessing his life. (2000, 130 min) 2 pm, Freer/Sackler Galleries, 12th & Independence Ave SW. Free; tickets distributed one hour before screening.
CAUGHT Marcel Ophuls balances between weepie and film noir in this tale of a waitress who marries a nasty millionaire, and she turns to a poor but upright doctor. (1949, 88 min) 4 pm, National Gallery of Art, East Building auditorium. Free.
MONDAY, APRIL 28
AVALON One of Barry Levinson's semi-autobiographical Baltimore films, this is the tale of a Jewish immigrant's 1914 arrival in the U.S. (1990, 126 min) 6:30 pm, Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh St NW. $6.
TUESDAY, APRIL 29
THE COLOR OF PARADISE Majid Majidi is the only Iranian director to have more than one film distributed by a major Western entertainment conglomerate because he tries to find a middle path between the austere work of Abbas Kiarostami, Iran's film-festival star, and the heartstring-grabbing style of Hollywood sentimentalists. Like its predecessor, the Oscar-nominated The Children of Heaven, this film has a simple but poignant scenario: Blind eight-year-old Mohammed (Mohsen Ramezani) is an impediment to the remarriage of his widowed father Hashem (Hossein Mahjub), who's trying to abandon the boy. When Majidi capitalizes on the documentary value of his scenario — a classroom of blind boys taking dictation in braille, a woman and her granddaughters crushing flowers to dye yarn — his film is quietly enthralling. When the plot kicks in, however, the director loses pitch control. The film has some lovely scenes, especially when it's in the mountains, but Majidi doesn't trust them to convey his themes. Ultimately, the film turns into The River Wild, much as The Children of Heaven became Rocky. 7 pm, Mary Pickford Theater, Library of Congress Madison Building, Third Floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free; call 202-707-5677 for reservations.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30
THE LITTLE FOXES Bette Davis plays one in a trio of manipulative Southern siblings in her third and last film with director William Wyler. (1941, 115 min) (Also May 3 & 4) 6:30 pm, American Film Institute Silver Theater, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.75
THE GIG This feature is about five white middle-aged amateur jazz players who get gig in the Catskills, where they clash with a new member, a young and jaded black professional bassist. (1985, 91 min) 7 pm, Mary Pickford Theater, Library of Congress Madison Building, Third Floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free; call 202-707-5677 for reservations.
THURSDAY, MAY 1
PERFORMANCE AS ART This program includes Media Burn, Ant Farm's assault on TV and cars, and a collection of works by confrontational performance artist Chris Burden. 6 pm, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Free.
KANDAHAR Like many of Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's films, this startling tour of the Taliban's Afghanistan is a poetic mingling of fact and fiction. Makhmalbaf cast Afghan-born Canadian journalist Nelofer Pazira as Nafas, an Afghan emigre who undertakes a dangerous return to her homeland to rescue her persecuted sister, who has vowed to commit suicide. For both artistic and practical reasons, Kandahar is very simple. Cloaked in a head-to-toe burka, Nafas crosses the border from Afghanistan into Iran, posing as the fourth wife in an older man's extended family. Soon robbed by black-turbaned bandits, the family decides to return to Iran, but Nafas continues, encountering starving children, oppressed women, and landmine victims. The strain of a troubled shoot shows in technical problems, and there are stiff performances and off-key improvised dialogue, perhaps more noticeable here than in other Makhmalbaf films because so much of the talk is in English rather than Farsi. Dialogue is usually not that important in Makhmalbaf's work, though, and certainly can't compete with this film's vivid, painful, indelible images. 7 pm, Mary Pickford Theater, Library of Congress Madison Building, Third Floor, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free; call 202-707-5677 for reservations.