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The first French director to craft sharp, stylish, self-conscious variations on the American gangster flick, Jean-Pierre Melville (ne Jean-Pierre Grumbach) presaged Godard and Truffaut and provided inspiration to such American neo-noir directors as Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill, and Paul Schrader. In anticipation of the release of a restored version of Melville’s 1967 Le Samourai, AFI presents a six-film miniretrospective, including the local premiere of The Army of Shadows, the director’s French Resistance epic (Dec. 19 at 9 p.m., Dec. 21 at 2 p.m., Dec. 22 at 5:45 p.m.). Also featured are Melville’s 1955 casino-robbery film, Bob le Flambeur(Dec. 18 at 7 p.m., Dec. 19 at 5:10 p.m., Dec. 27 at 5:10 p.m.), as well as films that turn on such archetypal gangster-movie premises as jailbreaks (Second Breath, pictured, Dec. 18 at 9 p.m., Dec. 21 at 9 p.m., Dec. 22 at 1 p.m.), police informers (Le Doulos, Dec. 20 at 5:10 p.m., Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.), and jewelry heists (The Red Circle, Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m., Dec. 22 at 8:15 p.m., Dec. 28 at 2 p.m.). The series opens with Melville’s final film, 1972’s Un Flic, in which a cop and a bank robber are both in love with Catherine Deneuve (Dec. 18 at 5:10 p.m., Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., Dec. 30 at 5:10 p.m.). At the Kennedy Center’s American Film Institute Theater. $6.50. (202) 828-4000. (Mark Jenkins)