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OCT. 2-NOV. 6

Less than a decade ago, one of the hottest tickets on the art-cinema circuit was the work of such Chinese Fifth Generation directors as Zhang Yimou, who obliquely addressed the problems of modern China in elegant period films. That tradition continues, but lately it’s been challenged by a new, more confrontational generation of directors whose films are set in contemporary China. This retrospective of late-’90s Chinese cinema includes examples of both styles, from veteran filmmaker Wu Tianming’s tale of poverty and sexism in ’30s Sichuan, The King of Masks (at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9) to brash newcomer Zhang Yuan’s Genet-like account of an encounter between a gay man and a cop, East Palace/West Palace (at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30). Some directors work both sides of the street: Zhou Xiaowen is represented by Ermo (with A Mongolian Tale at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2), the saga of a small-town noodle maker’s quest for the biggest TV in her village, as well as The Emperor’s Shadow (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 10), a visually dazzling, brutal account of the man who first united China. Among the new breed of Chinese films are Xiao Wu (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3), which has been compared to Bresson’s Pickpocket; On the Beat (pictured, with For Fun at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24), a naturalistic account of Beijing cops; and Sons (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30), in which an alcoholic patriarch and his family play themselves in a reenactment of the breakdown of their relationship. At the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th & Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)