FEB. 2-16

In 1932, successful French playwright and actor Sacha Guitry delivered a lecture titled “For the Theater and Against the Cinema.” Three years later, however, the flamboyant Guitry was a filmmaker, directing both historical dramas and his own irreverent plays, whose theatricality he insisted on transferring to the screen. His first great success, The Story of a Cheat (at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2), is typical of Guitry’s Wildean wit and jaunty self-absorption: The tale of a man who decides to feign corruption so as to fit into hypocritical high society, the film was based on a Guitry novel and starred—who else?—its writer-director. In 1937 came the even more self-conscious The Pearls of the Crown (pictured, at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9), the tale of three successive owners of a set of rare black pearls; the director plays the narrator, whose commentary clarifies untranslated dialogue in Italian, English, and “Abyssinian”—actually French played backward. Guitry often cast himself as the explainer, as in Remontons les Champs-Elysees (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16), in which he plays various important personages in the history of Paris’ best-known boulevard; and Ceux De Chez Nous (at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15), whose documentary footage introduces some of his favorite French artistes, including Renoir, Degas, Monet, Saint-Saens, and his father, actor Lucien Guitry. Also included is Faisons un Rêve (shown with Ceux De Chez Nous), one of the director’s many satires of Parisian adulteries. The series runs to Sunday, Feb. 16, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799 (Mark Jenkins)

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