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TO FEB. 19
French films have been set in Strasbourg and in Lille, in the mountains and—of course—at the beach. There are, however, only two places in the country with enduring cinematic traditions: Paris and the South. As the title of this series notes, the latter divides between Provence and Marseille, the country and the city. For such Southern filmmakers as Marcel Pagnol, as well as for visitors like Jean Renoir and Maurice Tourneur, the conflict between small-town simplicity and big-city intrigue was just as great as between North and South. Not that everything was ideal (or idealized) in the towns: In 1934’s Toni (pictured; at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11), Renoir uses a classic tale of love and jealousy—derived from local police files—to depict peasant life with unprecedented naturalism. Cast with nonprofessional actors, it has been described as the first neorealist film. There’s more contrivance to Tourneur’s 1935 Justin de Marseille (at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12), a tough-guy tale from the city’s docks—most of the director’s Marseille was actually contrived on soundstages, though some scenes were shot in the port area. Twelve years earlier, Jean Epstein filmed his silent Coeur Fidéle (Saturday, Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m.) entirely on the Marseille waterfront, rejecting mainstream theatricality, while André Antoine’s similar approach in 1922’s L’Arlésienne (at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19) transforms a play into cinema by shooting on location in Arles. The series runs through Sunday, Feb. 19, at the National Gallery of Art East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)