JUNE 17 & 18

A critique of a young woman’s romantic notions that nonetheless acknowledges the appeal of such fancies, director Anna Negri’s In the Beginning There Was Underwear follows the incredibly true adventures of two girls (Teresa Saponangelo and Stefania Rocca) with subsistence jobs. Imma and her friend Teresa live in Genoa’s old quarter, surviving mostly on the dreams they eagerly recount to each other. Then Imma instantaneously falls in love with the fireman who arrives at her ramshackle apartment to fix a gas leak. Her pursuit of the civil servant leads her on a tour of the city and then to Sicily, transforming the romantic comedy into a road movie. The Venetian-born Negri studied film in London, and when conceiving this film she decided to combine elements of Italian comedy with British realism, making working-class Imma’s search for the fireman an ironic version of the “grand tour” of Italy undertaken by moneyed young English ladies in the 19th century. Among her other aims, the director has said, was a desire to present a female view of romantic ideals and frustrations, something she finds rare in Italian cinema. “Perhaps this film tells us that love only exists in dreams or in the cinema,” she notes. “But it is also saying that without these things, life would be even worse.” At 8 p.m. Thursday, June 17, and Friday, June 18, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th & Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)