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OCT. 17-NOV. 7
Mountains feature prominently in American Westerns, the early work of Leni Riefenstahl, and The Sound of Music, but the most metaphysical cinematic adventures usually transpire high in the Himalayas. Even Martin Scorsese, who’s best known for movies about thugs, went all mystical when he got to make a film set in Tibetalthough his Kundun (at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7) did rouse itself from color-coordinated reverie for a final assault by the Red Chinese. Scorsese’s ravishing 1997 film is one of five in “Spiritual Adventures: The Himalayas on Film,” presented in conjunction with a Sackler Gallery exhibition, “Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure.” The program reaches back to one of the oldest examples of the genre, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 Black Narcissus (pictured; at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24), a sensuous account of life in a mountain nunnery that’s every bit as striking as Kundun, even though it was shot entirely on sets. Considerably more recent are Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang’s 1985 The Horse Thief (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2), an almost-wordless account of the harshness of life in Tibet, and Eric Valli’s 1999 Himalaya (at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17), whose tale of Nepalese nomads works as both an ethnographic study and a cattle-drive epic that happens to deploy yaks rather than cows. Not all these films have the perspective of outsiders: Tsering Rhitar Sherpa’s 2000 Mask of Desire (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19), which contrasts rural and urban life in today’s Nepal, is the first feature made entirely by Nepalese. The series opens at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th Street and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 633-4880. (Mark Jenkins)