Best Repertory Film Series
National Gallery of Art
4th Street NW at Pennsylvania Avenue, (202) 737-4215
Museums, galleries, embassies’ under-the-radar film festivals—D.C. is brimming with one-off screenings of foreign films, shorts, and old Hollywood classics. But the best art house is one you don’t have to pay for. The film series at the National Gallery of Art is a free-admission trove of unexpected gems. The current tour of Italian neo-realism began with pillars of the movement like De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and Visconti’s Obsession, but delved far deeper with little-seen cuts such as Rossellini’s anthology Paisan. A batch of recent narratives and documentaries by Russian directors offered stark portraits of bleak life on the steppe. It’s not all foreign: Curators Peggy Parson and Joanna Raczynska recently invited Jem Cohen to screen his Fugazi documentary, Instrument, and Charles Burnett to reflect on his 1977 poetic vision of inner-city Los Angeles, Killer of Sheep. Silent films shown last fall included live performances of the films’ original musical accompaniments, transporting NGA visitors to the pre-talkie era. Andrew W. Mellon wanted the gallery to showcase master works from every era when he bequeathed his art collection in 1937; its film series does right by that edict. This is why those Congressional gasbags a few blocks away shouldn’t defund the museums.