Sunday, August 19, 2007


DON'T GO TO"American Impressionism: Paintings From the Phillips Collection" to see how well Americans caught on to what was up in Paris. Go to see all the fascinating ways in which they got it wrong. Better to be an interesting failure than a dull, derivative success, I say. American impressionists didn't follow the French in avoiding the sentimental and the evidently picturesque; they used impressionist techniques to resurface the well-worn subjects of Americana. Or they looked at the fractured, light-inspired surfaces of impressionism and took license from them to invent their own, almost arbitrary ways of painting, such as the spidery webs of paint favored by Ernest Lawson. Or, in the case of a true original such as Maurice Prendergast, they simply took up where impressionism left off, pushing the French tendency toward decoration as far as it could go. Because all this show's pictures are from one gallery's holdings, rather than cherry-picked from here and there, we're served a full range of talent -- and sometimes non-talent -- rather than a falsely cleaned-up view.

-- Blake Gopnik

Through Sept. 16 at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-6 p.m. $12 for adults, $10 for students and visitors 62 and older, free for children. Call 202-387-2151 or visit


WE ALL KNOW how acrobatic and sexy ballroom dance can be, and how emotionally sprawling and deeply personal Frank Sinatra's voice can be. Choreographer Twyla Tharp puts the two together in "Nine Sinatra Songs," and if you haven't seen this piece before, it will make you love dance, life and Ol' Blue Eyes all over again. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform this gutsy, witty and wise suite of dances to such hits as "One for My Baby," "Softly, as I Leave You" and "Forget Domani." Also on the bill is George Balanchine's "Theme and Variations," accompanied by Tchaikovsky, and Dwight Rhoden's "Smoke 'n' Roses," set to recordings by jazz vocalist Etta Cox.

-- Sarah Kaufman

At Wolf Trap's Filene Center. Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. $34 in-house, $8 lawn. 877-965-3872 or


USUALLY, TALK OF THE FRENCH new wave brings to mind the nervy heroics of such originators as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. But Agnes Varda was every bit as able to move a camera and deliver vital, engaged examples of bravura filmmaking. Nowhere is her technical command and style more evident than in "Cleo From 5 to 7," her 1961 classic starring Corinne Marchand as a pop singer who walks the streets of Paris for two hours while awaiting a fateful medical diagnosis. It's a period piece, a meditation on mortality, a love letter to Paris and a sly subversion of the male cinematic gaze all in one.

-- Ann Hornaday

In French with subtitles. Today at 5:20 p.m. and Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. at the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Admission is $9.75 ($8.50 for seniors

and AFI members). Call 301-495-6700 or visit


GIVE IT UP for the undercard! The main attractions at Wolf Trap on Saturday are the alternative hip-hop group G. Love & Special Sauce and the reggae-rock outfit Slightly Stoopid; while I'm ambivalent about both bands, I'm totally in the tank for the concert's opener, Ozomatli. An irrepressible multiculti sound-clash collective from Southern California, Ozomatli plays an infectious, incendiary blend of hip-hop, funk, cumbia, dub, jazz, Latin rock and salsa with Middle Eastern flourishes and politically charged lyrics sung in English and Spanish. The group is an absolute tour de force onstage -- capable of getting even the most jaded people to join in the drum-line madness that breaks out at every one of the band's shows. Why anybody would want to follow them onstage is beyond me. Slightly stoopid, indeed.

-- J. Freedom du Lac

Saturday, 7 p.m. at Wolf Trap's Filene Center, 1645 Trap Rd., Vienna. $28-$35. For tickets, call 703-255-1868, or visit

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