We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

OCT. 11-NOV. 6

Poet, novelist, illustrator, painter: Jean Cocteau’s individual artistic achievements are impressive enough on their own. But it’s the French Renaissance man’s ability to seamlessly combine elements of each into his fantastical films that’s truly remarkable. Opening the series “Jean Cocteau: Poet With a Movie Camera” is the director’s first motion picture, the silent The Blood of a Poet (pictured; at 3 p.m. Sat., Oct. 11 and at 4 p.m. Sun., Oct. 12), a surreal tableaux of four dreamlike sequences exploring the interrelationships of artist, creation, death, and rebirth. Following the film’s 1930 release—which coincided with the start of the sound era—Cocteau found himself lacking the necessary funding for another film, and he chose to concentrate on his writing. He would not direct another film until Beauty and the Beast (screening with Poet), his 1946 adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s fable. During the 16 years in between—in addition to contributing to the screenplays for Marcel L’Herbier’s La Comédie du Bonheur and Serge de Poligny’s Le Baron Fantôme—Cocteau would collaborate with minimalist director Robert Bresson on the Diderot-inspired film Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (at 4 p.m. Sun., Oct. 26, at the National Gallery and at 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 6, at Maison Française), about a woman who seeks revenge on her lover after he rejects her. Five years later, Cocteau protégé Jean-Pierre Melville would go on to adapt Cocteau’s 1929 novel, Les Enfants Terribles (at 4 p.m. Sun., Oct. 19, at the National Gallery and at 7 p.m. Tue., Oct. 21, at Maison Française). Timeless, challenging, and influential, the films in this series should encourage film enthusiasts perusing the David Lynch section of their video store to look a little further back—both in time and on the shelves. The series starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 842-6799; films will also screen at Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. $5. (202) 944-6091. (See Showtimes for a complete schedule.) (Matthew Borlik)