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to aug. 28

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At World War II’s end, most German cinema directors were long gone (mostly having relocated to Hollywood) or beyond redemption (having entrusted their reputations to the Nazis). One of the few who survived making films in Hitler-era Germany was Helmut Käutner, who specialized in romantic fare during the war but later dealt with political issues. His range can be seen in this series’ next two movies, which curiously parallel each other. Made in 1945, but clearly set in a gentler time, Under the Bridges (at 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 17) follows two Berlin bargemen who one night see a young woman they fear is about to throw herself off a bridge. Their attempt to save her soon turns into a romantic rivalry, appointed with the sort of comic details that suggest a French film. Next week’s entry is The Last Bridge (at 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14), which gives a similar theme a much more dramatic reading. As the war in Yugoslavia is turning against the Axis, a woman doctor in the German army is kidnapped by Communist guerrillas. The doctor hates Slavs, partisans, and Commies, yet soon comes to see the essential humanity of her captors; ultimately, she finds herself on a bridge, having to choose not between two suitors but two nations. Other upcoming films include Ludwig II (at 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21), a remarkably sympathetic Technicolor account of Bavaria’s “mad king’’ and his relationship with imperious composer Richard Wagner, and The Captain of Köpenick (at 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28), a satire of the German reverence for uniformed authority figures. “Spotlight on Helmut Käutner” runs through Monday, Aug. 28, at the Goethe Institut, 812 7th St. NW. $6. (202) 289-1200. (Mark Jenkins)