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MAY 5-JUNE 25
Rockers challenge the status quo, acrobats hop from roof to roof as a revolutionary plot unravels, and two performers find their longtime friendship shaken by the Cultural Revolution—this series might well have been titled “Music, Dance, and Politics in Chinese Film.” The program reprises six fine Chinese and Hong Kong films that have been seen in Washington before, though often only in limited repertory engagements. Most are in the sumptuous, stately mode of recent Chinese epics: Zhou Xiaowen’s The Emperor’s Shadow turns on the relationship between China’s ruthless first emperor and one of his childhood friends, a musician who refuses to compose the conqueror’s anthem (at 7 p.m. Friday, May 5, and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7). Chen Kaige’s Farewell, My Concubine follows two opera performers through war, revolution, and changing attitudes toward homosexuality (at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 21). Kaige’s Life on a String is a lovely, if enigmatic, fable of a blind musician and his apprentice (at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18). In Wu Tianming’s King of Masks, a street performer’s male chauvinism is challenged when he unwittingly adopts a young girl (at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 25). Two quite different styles are represented by Beijing Bastards, Zhang Yuan’s scrappy, low-budget study of Beijing’s underground rockers (pictured, at 7 p.m. Friday, May 12), and Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues, the dazzling, breakneck 1986 farce that introduced Hong Kong’s newly sophisticated cinema to American audiences (at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 8, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11). At the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th and Independence Avenue SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)