YASUJIRO OZU, this is your season. The Japanese director's works can be seen in two free series -- at the University of Maryland (Wednesday through April 13) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Sunday through March 20).
A product of the Japanese mainstream studio system, Ozu slowly evolved his own quiet but distinctive style with stories about the Japanese middle class going through everyday conflicts, such as marriage, getting a job and resolving family disputes. His films were shot usually from a low angle, as if by a kindly old man sitting cross-legged on a tatami mat.
The Japanese Embassy's Information and Culture Center is sponsoring the University of Maryland series. Wednesday, it's Late Spring (1949); the following Wednesday, a presentation by Japan Society Film Coordinator Kyoko Hirano called "Japanese Views of Ozu: From War to Peace" will precede Ozu's 1952 The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice. The series concludes April 13 with End of Summer (1961). All lecture/films are at Francis Scott Key Hall, Room 1117; other screenings are in the Art-Sociology Building, Room 2203. Call 939-6900 weekdays to ensure a seat.
Sunday, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian's new museum of Asian Art, shows "The End of Summer"; next Sunday (March 6), "Early Spring"; on March 20, "Late Spring." All are at 2 in the Ripley Center Lecture Hall, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. 357-2627.
This weekend through March 15 you can see 13 feature-length British premieres in Washington, with additional short features from the Brit-Wave, at the American Film Institute Festival of British Film and Television. The festival opens with Peter Greenaway's 1987 The Belly of an Architect (Saturday at 6, Sunday at 8:30). Greenaway, maker of the enigmatic The Draughtsman's Contract and A Zed and Two Noughts, is a stylistic revolution unto himself. In "Belly," architect Brian Dennehy is preparing an exhibit in Rome while his wife (Chloe Webb) is having an affair with his architectural rival.
Among the other films are Ken McMullen's Partition (1987; Monday at 8:45), Peter Wollen's sci-fi fantasy Friendship's Death (1987; Tuesday at 6:30), and next Friday and Saturday (March 4-5) at 6:30, Ken Russell's ABC of British Music looks at Britain's best and worst through that familiar demented point of view.
The AFI's also showing films from Austria (March 11 through April 18) and "Shakespeare on Film." The bard fare starts this weekend with Laurence Olivier's controversial 1966 Othello (Friday at 8:30, Sunday at 2), and continues with Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 Romeo and Juliet (Wednesday, 8:30 and Thursday at 6:30); the series runs through April 20.
The Houses are Full of Smoke, Allen Francovitch's open-eyed documentary on the brutal political struggles in Central America -- as well as the U.S. government's participation therein -- returns to the Biograph, Saturday and Sunday at 2 only.