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to oct. 28

Washington’s first festival of contemporary French cinema is something worth toasting, but Gallic filmmakers don’t seem to be in a celebratory mood; no fewer than three of these movies deal with political corruption. The most charming is Chris Marker’s The Case of the Grinning Cat (pictured; at 2:20 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, and 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15), a characteristically whimsical meditation on protest, 9/11, and felines, both actual and symbolic. In Comedy of Power (at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, and Thursday, Oct. 19), Claude Chabrol forgoes his customary Hitchcockian climax for a quiet, rueful account of a magistrate’s battle against graft, while the appropriately old-fashioned The Tiger Brigades (at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, and 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22) returns to 1912 for a tale of scandal that’s thematically up-to-date. Of course, it wouldn’t be a French film fest without a few willful female adolescents: The 15-year-old protagonist of On Fire (at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, and 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21) fans her lust for a fireman into a literal conflagration; the slightly older girl in Riviera (at 9:15 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, and Sunday, Oct. 22) is a pretty nightclub dancer who transfixes men, although it turns out that her mother is the one to watch. Also included are a program of shorts (at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at the National Gallery of Art) and three screenings at the Maison Française. See Showtimes for details; visit for a complete schedule. The films show at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $9.25. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)