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TO FEB. 14

German cinema encompasses romantic comedies, adventure tales, and other crowd-pleasing genres, but it keeps returning to three painful subjects: Nazism, Communism, and violent ’70s-youth leftism. This selection of work by directors who were represented in the Goethe-Institut’s recent series of new German-language films includes one lighthearted entry, Lars Buechel’s 2000 Now or Never (pictured; Feb. 7), in which three over-70 women turn to bank robbery. The meat of the series, however, is in two documentaries that take a very different tone. Andres Veiel’s tense 2001 Black Box Germany (Jan. 31) follows the contrasting—but perhaps also intersecting—lives of two men who met violent ends. Dashing, confident Deutsche Bank executive Alfred Herrhausen was executed by a car bomb on his way to work in 1984; Red Army Faction “sympathizer” Wolfgang Grams was killed by police under mysterious, never-investigated circumstances in 1993. The two men and their worlds are evoked with interviews, archival footage, and some reconstructed scenes. On a lighter note, Dana Ranga’s 1996 East Side Story (Feb. 14) considers the remarkably robust Eastern Bloc movie-musical genre. More Reefer Madness than That’s Entertainment, the film (which was produced and co-written by The Nomi Song director Andrew Horn) conducts a brief, sprightly tour of Commie song-and-dance flicks. The main attraction is the string of clips from the musicals themselves, which range from Soviet agricultural and assembly-line production numbers to Hot Summer, a now-hilarious East German youth-culture romp. The series runs through Monday, Feb. 14 (all screenings are on Mondays at 6:30 p.m.; see Showtimes for a full schedule), at the Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW. $6. (202) 289-1200. (Mark Jenkins)