to dec. 31

What’s a man to do after being jilted by his wife and robbed by his benefactor? Seek vengeance? Move on? Or perhaps become lost in self-loathing and retreat into a career as a circus clown, disgracing oneself nightly before a doltish audience hungry for cheap thrills? Art films have always been art films—even in the silent era—and the plot of Victor Sjöström’s 1924 film He Who Gets Slapped probably sat with the jock dads and dullard teens of the ’20s about as well as Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint No. 9 does today—which is to say, not well. However, after years of struggling to elevate what was then a poorly respected mass medium to art, Sjöström probably felt a certain kinship with that clown, repeatedly having to stick on the red nose and entertain the lewd desires of American consumers. In celebration of the pioneering director’s laudable ambitions, the National Gallery of Art will show several of the auteur’s works as part of the film series “Victor Sjöström: Swedish Original.” The Wind (pictured; at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10) finds Sjöström approaching familiar themes of personal anguish, following a young woman (Lilian Gish) as she is driven mad by the howling winds that plague her life on the frontier. Similarly, The Scarlet Letter (at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16) finds the director troubling the prim censors of yesteryear with a bawdy reading of the Hawthorne classic. The series runs to Sunday, Dec. 31, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. (Aaron Leitko)

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