Throughout the ages, Russian artists have been obsessed with boredom. Chekhov and Tarkovsky both stared unblinkingly into the depths of the banal—whether they were writing about bougie malcontents milling about a cherry orchard or making the most slow-paced film ever to be set in space. Filmmaker Alexander Sokurov also belongs to this hallowed lineage; however, the subjects of his long gaze are slightly more interesting. In The Sun—the third film in his series on world leaders—Sokurov paints a grainy fictional portrait of Emperor Hirohito as he meanders about his compound indulging in humdrum tasks during the final days of World War II. Elegy of Life is a two-part documentary on cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya—beloved Russian performers who temporarily lost their Soviet citizenship for sheltering a political dissident. Like his forebears, Sokurov doesn’t worry about telling a riveting story, he allows silence and mysterious imagery to create all of the tension he needs. The series runs to Sunday, March 15, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 737-4215; see Showtimes for this week’s films; see nga.gov/programs/film.shtm for a complete schedule. —Aaron Leitko

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