TEN YEARS AGO, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola sponsored the long-awaited American release of "I Am Cuba," Mikhail Kalatozov's 1964 film that was commissioned by Soviet authorities to extol the Cuban revolution. Rather than a dull piece of realist propaganda, Kalatozov and his screenwriter, poet Evgueny Evtushenko, delivered a rapturous, romantic, visually dazzling tone poem that depicted the Batista era with such sensuality and life that the film was banned in the Soviet Union and Cuba. Today, the National Gallery of Art will show a brand-new 35mm print of "I Am Cuba," along with a remastered soundtrack. A collection of vignettes of Cuban life set to Evtushenko's occasionally bathetic script, "I Am Cuba" is a must-see for its magnificent camerawork, including two breathtaking tracking shots -- one that travels through a cigar factory and out into the street and another that begins on a high floor of a swank hotel and seamlessly makes its way down the elevator and into the swimming pool below. Part agitprop artifact, part cultural-historical curio, "I Am Cuba" is pure cinema at its most bravura and expressive.
-- Ann Hornaday
"I Am Cuba" (in Spanish with subtitles) will be shown at the National Gallery of Art East Building auditorium, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Today at 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 202-842-6799 or visit www.nga.gov/programs/film.shtm.
WILLIE NELSON IS responsible for one of this year's most disastrous albums: the Caribbean cowboy experiment "Countryman," on which the Redheaded Stranger swaps his trademark pigtails for natty dreads to, well, dreadful effect. But we love him anyway. Nelson is a true American treasure, with a thick songbook dating back to the 1950s along with one of pop music's most distinctive voices -- a gloriously weathered tenor that's always working against the beat. Nelson is also a singular guitarist, with a style aptly described by the Dallas Observer as "a honky-tonk Django Reinhardt." Just take one listen to Nelson's potent acoustic picking on Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," off the live "VH1 Storytellers" set from the two country rebels, and you'll understand.
-- J. Freedom du Lac
At the Patriot Center, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax. Wednesday at 8 p.m. $41.50-$47.50. Call 800-551-SEAT or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
REALLY SERIOUS ART COLLECTORS are rare birds. Collectors of advanced contemporary art are even rarer. Contemporary collectors who focus on work by female artists barely exist. A collection of challenging pictures of those artists by the artists themselves is the ivory-billed woodpecker of the art world. You can see one now at the tiny downtown space called Curator's Office. Leading Washington collectors Heather and Tony Podesta, who generally specialize in contemporary art by women, are showing some of their holdings of female self-portraits at the little gallery. There are big names on view: There's a photo of Marina Abramovic, documenting a limit-pushing performance in which, among other acts of self-punishment, she cut a star into her stomach with a razor blade. There are also unknowns: Kathryn Cornelius, a barely emerging local artist, presents a series of stills from a video in which she's shown vacuuming a beach -- a housewife become Sisyphus.
-- Blake Gopnik
"Me, Myself and I: Artist Self-Portraits From the Heather and Tony Podesta Collection," at Curator's Office, 1515 14th St. NW, through Dec. 17. Wednesday-Saturday noon-6 p.m. Call 202-387-1008 or visit www.curatorsoffice.com.
HERE'S A PRODUCTION that sticks its neck out. "Tall Horse," brought to the Kennedy Center by puppet theaters from South Africa and Mali -- and featuring music, dance and live actors -- tells the true tale of a giraffe that captivated a country after it was sent as a present to the king of France in 1827. Could a puppet giraffe have the same effect on audiences by the Potomac?
-- Peter Marks
At the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. $15-$25. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org.