Sunday, October 22, 2006


IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN THE SCARIEST, but this black-and-white silent film was the first -- and many believe the best -- vampire film of them all. Directed by German filmmaker F.W. Murnau, "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror" gave 1920s audiences the first vision of one of the screen's most enduring characters. As Count Orlock (a name concession to avoid legal action from Bram Stoker's widow, who owned rights to the "Dracula" novel), Max Schreck was far more disturbing than all the stylish Bela Lugosis, Christopher Lees and Gary Oldmans who followed. He's practically feral with those lop ears, rodent fangs and clawlike fingers; and there's a ghostliness about him that stays with you long after the movie. On Friday evening, you can get a sense of the silent movie experience (which, incidentally, was never actually silent) at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring. A 35mm print of the 1922 movie (running time: 84 minutes) will be shown with live accompaniment from Silent Orchestra, which consists of keyboardist Carlos Garza and percussionist Rich O'Meara -- longtime composers whose combination of contemporary and traditional scores for this and other silent classics have been performed at AFI, the National Gallery of Art and Paris's Centre Pompidou. Cover your throats, by all means, but not your eyes and ears.

-- Desson Thomson

Two shows at the AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd.), at 7 and 9:30 Friday. Tickets are $20 ($15 for AFI members, $5 for 12 and under) and are available at AFI Silver. For more information, visit


WHEN THE NATIONAL GALLERY announced a show called "Constable's Great Landscapes: The Six-Foot Paintings," it seemed likely that we'd finally get some firm answers about why the English painter worked from preliminary oil sketches just as big as his finished pictures. Now that the exhibition has opened, we can actually do a side-by-side comparison between eight of the canvases and the full-size sketches for them. And discover that comparison raises as many questions as it answers. To hear how some leading scholars are addressing the Constable conundrum, spend this afternoon at a public symposium called "An Expanding Vision: Constable and the Transformation of Landscape." Even if the art historians don't manage to find all the answers, they're bound to have come up with some bright new questions.

-- Blake Gopnik

The symposium is 1 to 4:30 p.m. today in the East Building Auditorium of the National Gallery of Art, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Call 202-737-4215 or visit


THE RADICAL ITALIAN-BORN ARCHITECT Paolo Soleri has been hiding out in Arizona for most of his astonishingly insightful career. With the help of live-in acolytes, he has been building a prototype for an environmentally friendly city that blends architectural innovation, ecology and silt. The planned community is only 1 percent complete, but Soleri remains a fiery philosopher with his shoulder hard against a dream, working since 1970 on his Utopian anti-sprawl village of Arcosanti, 70 miles from Phoenix. Soleri's efforts were rewarded last week in New York, where he received the Smithsonian's National Design Award for lifetime achievement at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. On Monday, Soleri will speak about his work at 6:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum.

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