TO AUG. 25

Totò: Re della Commedia

In light of his given name, Antonio de Curtis Gagliardi Griffo Focas Comneno di Bisanzio had a better claim on the pseudonym “Tony Curtis” than the man who became a star under that alias (whose real name was Bernard Schwartz). Instead, he became famous—and much-loved—as Totò, the sad-sack king of Italian screen comedy in the ’50s and ’60s. Born in Naples and originally a stage performer, Totò transferred to film the traditions of commedia dell’arte, in which skilled performers improvised on simple plots and established humorous archetypes. In many of his movies, Totò found himself on the wrong side of the law—which would be whatever side he was on. In The Gang of Honest Men (at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, and at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4), he played a naive doorman who inherits an engraving set that’s perfect for counterfeiting lira notes, whereas in Totò Against the Four (at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, and at 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11), he was a police chief surrounded by bumbling and corruption. Totò also took on serious themes, as in The Passionate Thief (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4), adapted from two Albert Moravia works; Totò, Peppino, and the Berlin Wall (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18), which has been compared with Waiting for Godot; and Hawks and Sparrows (pictured, at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25), a class-conflict allegory directed by gay Marxist provocateur Pier Paolo Pasolini. This series will continue at the American Film Institute, but that schedule has not been finalized yet. The National Gallery’s portion screens to Saturday, Aug. 25, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. For reservations call (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)