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To SEPT. 24
Prolific Korean director Lee Man-hee died in 1975, before his homeland’s cinema became known for provocative displays of sex and violence. But lust and murder are hardly lacking in this retrospective, which includes only four of the 50 films the director made in his 15-year career. The canniest selection is 1967’s A Road to Return (pictured; at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15), a bitter melodrama that reflects the legacy of the Korean War. A partly paralyzed former lieutenant, attended by his faithful but unfulfilled wife, writes serialized novels for a Seoul newspaper. When his editor complains that the wife character in his latest fiction is too saintly, the novelist decides to rewrite her—both on paper and in life. In 1966’s Water Mill (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17), a drifter settles in a small town to romance a young beauty, but his crush leads to misery and death. A more calculating guy decides to eliminate his pregnant lover in 1964’s The Devil’s Stairway (at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22), which is set in a spooky medical clinic that looks haunted even before the victim’s ghost starts making appearances. The series closes with its only color film, 1975’s Road to Sampo (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24), in which two tramps and a well-dressed but apparently destitute young woman hike across a snowy landscape to the older man’s hometown, which turns out to look nothing like his tales of it. The films show at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th St. & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-3200. (Mark Jenkins)