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TO AUG. 3
Opera composers, Afrocentric historians, and the guys—or Guy, if you prefer—who wrote the Bible: They’ve all mucked up the history of ancient Egypt for their own purposes. Still, no one’s played faster and looser with Nile culture than filmmakers. Inspired by the possibilities for sex, horror, and spectacle, directors began setting motion pictures among the pyramids almost as soon as cinema was invented. The oldest movie in this series, which complements the National Gallery’s current exhibition of Egyptian antiquities, is 1918’s tragic romance The Eyes of the Mummy Ma, an early Ernst Lubitsch film starring Pola Negri and Emil Jannings; it’s shown with Karl Freund’s The Mummy, a 1932 horror flick in which Boris Karloff plays an ancient priest who’s been resurrected (at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 28). Also featured are a pair of films about a perennial cinematic favorite: Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 Cleopatra features a wealth of Egypt-goes-art-deco set design and Claudette Colbert as the seductive queen (pictured); Land of the Pharaohs is Howard Hawks’ widescreen 1955 variation on the theme, with Joan Collins as a Cleolike monarch (at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 27). The program concludes with Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s 1966 Faraon (Pharaoh) (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3), a rare example of a film that takes ancient Egypt seriously. Set in the 11th century B.C., it’s the tale of a reform-minded pharaoh who tangles with the priestly establishment. Each program will be introduced by George Mason University classics professor Martin Winkler. The series runs Saturday, July 27, Sunday, July 28, and Saturday, Aug. 3, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)