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The only serious competition the French have in the “We were big once” school of cultural self-pres-entation is the English, but really it’s no contest. French power declined earlier, faster, and more utterly, and as a result the curators of Gallic culture have a huge lead in making reveling in past glories the national pastime. Jean-Pierre Jeancolas, president of the French Association of Research on Cinema History, will rub in the fact that no one except the Lumières was making movies a hundred years ago in his lecture, “The History of French Cinema,” which will feature a screening of Planète Lumière, an anthology of 28 short films made by the too-appropriately named brothers between 1896 and 1900. Gaze into a time when France was cutting-edge at 7:30 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hammer Auditorium, 17th & New York Ave. NW. $8. For reservations call (202) 347-3601.CP