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Soviet film was frequently innovative but seldom playful. A major exception is the work of director Boris Barnet, whose cinematic spirit is closer to Jacques Tati’s than Sergei Eisenstein’s. Today’s Barnet double bill includes Dark Is the Night, a 1945 expressionist drama based on a play about loyal peasants who help Russian soldiers hide from German invaders. The director plays a major role in that movie, but more of his character is revealed in 1936’s By the Bluest of Seas, in which two shipwrecked Caspian Sea fishermen compete for the affections of an ideologically stalwart local lass. It’s an allegory of Soviet unity, but also a celebration of landscape, cinema, and color. (A black-and-white version exists as well.) The film is in part the result of Barnet’s quest for locations far from Soviet censorship, but his escape was only temporary: In 1965, the director’s creative struggles ended in suicide. The films screen as part of a series at 4:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)