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It took Éric Rohmer eight years to produce his second feature. Much of that Terence Malick-like break between films can be attributed to the fact that his debut, The Sign of Leo, went largely unseen. Not even the attachment of Claude Chabrol name as producer could give it a good push in France. Rohmer was the oldest of the Cahiers du Cinema staff to jump into filmmaking, but perhaps the most lasting with meticulous craftsmanship, leisurely scenery, and a unique touch for dialogue that makes the mundane feel divine.
The National Gallery of Art, which boasts the area’s best repertory film series, kicks off a 10-week set of Rohmer films this weekend with that first work, The Sign of Leo. The film stars the American-born Jess Hahn as Pierre, an aspiring musician roughly the same age—39—that Rohmer was when he directed it. But it is not an aspirational tale. For all his presumed luck, Pierre consumes himself into friendlessness and ruin. Did Rohmer see Pierre as his on-screen double? If so, the comparison didn’t stick, and we’re more fortunate for it—the NGA’s Rohmer series continues through the end of May.
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art East Building, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799
The life and career of Elizabeth Taylor will continue to be rehashed and dissected plenty over the coming weeks and months. What can be said briefly of Taylor, who died last week at 75? Her general celebrity, advocacy for AIDS research, her near-complete withdrawal from film roles starting in 1980? Perhaps how she spent most of her life under the thumb of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio bosses?
A handful of Taylor’s earlier career gems are on view at the Atlas Performing Arts Center this weekend, including the 1944 breakout National Velvet in which Taylor, then 12, proved she could carry a Hollywood feature. With A Place in the Sun and Father of the Bride, Taylor shook off her child-star origins, and though her personal life was famously turbulent, it seldom, if ever, lessened her screen presence. If anything Taylor’s private turmoils may have fueled her most enduring roles—she arrived on the set of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1958 newly widowed after the death of her third husband and wracked with grief that reverberated one of the most tempestuous marital dramas ever filmed.
Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $5 per film. (202) 399-7993.