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TO DEC. 28

Kaurismäki: Out of Finland

The American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center did a Kaurismäki retrospective barely six months ago, so who needs another one? Well, assuming that every potential fan of the Finnish director’s distinctive deadpan has already seen such films as the “silent” melodrama Juha (at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 28) and the restaurant-biz noir Drifting Clouds (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28)—which isn’t likely—this series also includes several lesser-known and rarely seen works. This weekend, there’s Total Balalaika Show (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21), an oddball concert flick that features Kaurismäki’s musical alter egos, the faux-Russian Leningrad Cowboys, in performance with the actual-Russian Red Army Chorus. Also included is the director’s would-be breakthrough film, I Hired a Contract Killer (at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27), with Jean-Pierre Léaud as a man who engages a hit man to end his own life, then changes his mind. Kaurismäki went to the trouble of making this movie in English, but it never got an American commercial release. For those who wouldn’t know Kaurismäki’s version of La Vie de Bohème (shown with Total Balalaika Show) from Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann’s considerably more frenetic take on the same material, the best introduction to the ironic Finn’s work is the double bill of Ariel and Leningrad Cowboys Go America (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 27). Both are road movies that blend pathos with the driest of wit, but the former merely dreams of escaping frozen Finland whereas the latter actually tours Jim Jarmusch’s America. The series runs to Sunday, Dec. 28, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)