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APRIL 11-27

Italy didn’t invent cinema, but it did reinvent the form in the two decades following World War II. That was the era of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Michelangelo Antonioni, all of whom are represented in this program of seven films recently restored by Italy’s Mediaset. The path from neorealism, which used documentary techniques to depict a war-ravaged Italy, to subjective fantasy is charted in the three Fellini films. 1953’s I Vitelloni (pictured, at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 20) is a picaresque memoir of the aimless middle-class layabouts who were the director’s adolescent companions. 1959’s La Dolce Vita (at 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 11; and at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 19) moves to a newly upscale and increasingly secular Rome, where a cynical journalist pursues pleasure and sensationalist scoops. 1963’s 8 1/2 (at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27) ventures into semi-autobiographical surrealism to represent Fellini’s weariness and self-doubt. More austere are Francesco Giullare di Dio (at 12:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday, April 12), Rossellini’s 1949 biography of St. Francis; De Sica’s 1953 Umberto D. (at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, April 24, and Friday, April 25), in which a retired bureaucrat struggles to survive on his pension; and Pasolini’s 1962 Mamma Roma (at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 12; and at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 15), a sideways sequel to Rossellini’s Rome, Open City. Even before 8 1/2, the ’60s arrived with Antonioni’s L’Avventura (at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13; and at 2 p.m. Friday, April 18), the classic cinematic parable of alienation. The series runs from Friday, April 11, to Sunday, April 27, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)