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If you’re mounting a series about films made up of photographs—as the Goethe-Institut and the National Gallery of Art are doing—Hollis Frampton’s 36-minute 1971 film Hapax Legomena I: (nostalgia) is a smart, if not unsettling, pick. In the film, a series of photos are set on a hotplate and slowly burned to a blackened crisp. Frampton narrates, describing and reminiscing on each photo’s circumstances, but it’s soon clear that he’s describing the next picture to be scorched. This leads to a mystery that nearly drove my then-girlfriend batty when I took her to a screening of it in my college avant-garde film class. (Though I admit that the course’s pairing of Frampton’s film with Peter Greenaway’s three-hour, 92-part mockumentary The Falls may really have driven us to the brink that night.)
Frampton’s film shows at 4:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art. PhotoFilm! runs through March 12 at the National Gallery of Art and the Goethe-Institut, 4th St. and Constitution Ave. NW and 812 7th St. NW, respectively. Films at the gallery are free; at Goethe, $4–$7. goethe.de/washington. (202) 289-1200.