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Coming to a National Mall Near You

The National Gallery of Art is just one of the cultural institutions in D.C. offering free movie screenings. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
The National Gallery of Art is just one of the cultural institutions in D.C. offering free movie screenings. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The various Smithsonian and related government institutions around the capital region always offer a healthy serving of gratis good cinema in grand facilities such as the National Gallery of Art, the Freer and Sackler museums and the National Archives.  

This week, it’s as simple as walking in the door to watch some interesting, influential or just plain weird movies at those spots.  

On Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the William G. McGowan Theater, the Archives will screen “Projections of America,” a 2014 documentary by Peter Miller about a series of 26 short films (also called Projections of America) made during World War II by U.S. government filmmakers as part of the war’s propaganda efforts.  

Spearheaded by screenwriter Robert Riskin, the shorts, for the most part unseen in the United States, were aimed at introducing the rest of the world to U.S. culture through profiles of regular Americans who embodied everything from the iconic (cowboys) to the pedestrian (window washers, kids at school).  

The 52-minute movie about movies will be followed by a discussion with Miller and Victoria Riskin, daughter of Robert Riskin and actress Fay Wray, at 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.  

For a stranger take on the fallout from World War II, the Freer Gallery of Art will screen gonzo filmmaker Seijun Suzuki’s “Gate of Flesh” Friday at 7 p.m., at its Meyer Auditorium.  

Suzuki, one of post-war Japan’s wildest directors, used his 1964 movie to tell the story of bombed-out Tokyo at the basest level: a group of prostitutes plying their trade for a shattered society, including the droves of shell-shocked soldiers returning from a conflict they lost.  

Suzuki’s cinematic style, blending candy colors, musical numbers, unorthodox camera angles and lighting, came to life in a series of crime movies like “Branded to Kill,” “Tokyo Drifter” and “Youth of the Beast.” For “Gate of Flesh,” he hits the accelerator in what the Freer folks describe as “part social realist drama, part sadomasochistic trash opera.”  

As one may imagine, it’s suggested for mature audiences.  

The gallery’s Suzuki retrospective continues Sunday at 2 p.m. with “Tattooed Life” about two brothers, one a student and one a yakuza, who escape the city only to get themselves into trouble while working in a mine. At 1050 Independence Ave. SW.  

If it’s French New Wave you’re after, the work of one of the masters of the genre, Agnes Varda, is getting a retrospective at the National Gallery of Art.  

On Sunday at 4 p.m., the gallery’s East Building Large Auditorium is showing her 2000 feature “The Gleaners and I,” an expansive road movie about everything from second harvest wines to art and literature.  

That will be followed by her 1958 short documentary of rural France, “Ô saisons, Ô châteaux.” At Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW.  

Propaganda. Japanese B-movies. New Wave. It’s all happening.  

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