Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
The title of this four-film series suggests something playful, but that notion will be quickly dispelled by the opening attraction, Pale Flower (at 7 p.m. Friday, April 15). The first diversions depicted in “Japanese new wave” director Masahiro Shinoda’s 1964 drama are the illegal card games a gangster enters after being released from prison. When he meets a thrill-seeking female gambler, the stakes increase to include drugs, drag racing, and murder. The games are played in the sunshine in the contemporaneous Tokyo Olympiad (at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17), Kon Ichikawa’s masterly three-hour documentary about the 1964 Olympics, the event that introduced postwar Japan to the world. Jumping ahead four decades, 2003’s Ping Pong (at 7 p.m. Friday, April 22) is a corny but high-energy tale of two childhood friends who take very different approaches to competitive table tennis. This earnest comedy was derived from a manga series, so it’s appropriate that director Fumihiko Masuri treats it as a live-action cartoon, much in the style of Hong Kong director Stephen (Shaolin Soccer) Chow. Although released the same year as Ping Pong, Winter Days (pictured; at 7 p.m. Friday, April 29) has a classic inspiration: It’s a series of linked animated shorts by 35 ’toonsmiths, creating a modern counterpart to renku, a poetry game in which participants are required to add verses to those written by others. The collaboration’s theme actually derives from a renku that included 17th-century haiku master Basho. The series opens Friday, April 15, and runs through Friday, April 29 (see Showtimes for a weekly schedule), in the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Mark Jenkins)