THERE'S NOTHING HOTTER than stallions on the showbiz circuit, it seems. On the hoofs of the horse-whispering show "Cavalia," which is still running, a second equestrian tour trotted into town this weekend: the Lipizzaner Stallions of Vienna's Spanish Riding School. The famed white horses perform with a precision that any corps de ballet would envy, thanks to the meticulous training of their school, which has been turning out prancing steeds for more than 400 years. This American tour -- the first in 15 years -- marks the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, at which time the entire breed might have perished, according to the riding school, if it hadn't been for the U.S. Army. Learning of their plight while stationed in Austria, Gen. George Patton ordered the rescue of the horses, which had become dispersed during the war.
-- Sarah Kaufman
At MCI Center, 601 F St. NW, today at 2:30 p.m. 202-628-3200. Tickets: $38 to $153, www.spanishridingschool.com or
THERE'S A LOT going on at the American Film Institute these days, between the European Union Film Showcase, which tonight will screen Stephen Frears's "Mrs. Henderson Presents," and the continuation on Friday of its tribute to Ernst Lubitsch.
But tucked into all that great programming is a retrospective of a revered, oft-overlooked director: Louis Malle, whose work will be shown at the AFI and the National Gallery of Art as part of the six-week series "Risks and Reinvention." The program gets underway today with a screening of "Place de la Republique," Malle's 1974 cinema verite documentary in which the filmmaker engaged several of his French countrymen and -women in sprightly, surprising conversations. Screening Wednesday is the recently rereleased "Elevator to the Gallows," Malle's astonishingly assured 1957 debut that starred Jeanne Moreau in a stylish noir thriller. The series, which wraps Jan. 10, will also feature new prints of Malle favorites including "Zazie Dans le Metro," "Murmur of the Heart," "Lacombe, Lucien" and "Au Revoir Les Enfants."
-- Ann Hornaday
"Place de la Republique," preceded by Malle's short film "Vive le Tour," about the famed bicycle race, screens at 4 p.m. in the East Building auditorium, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Admission is free. Call 202-842-6799 or visit www.nga.gov.
"Elevator to the Gallows" will be shown at 6 p.m. (and again Friday at 5 p.m. and Nov. 29 at 6:40 p.m.) at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Admission is $9.25 ($7.50 for students, seniors and AFI members). Call 301-495-6700 or visit www.afi.com/silver.
THE AMERICAN COMPOSER David Del Tredici is probably best known for his fanciful, melodic and highly original settings of the Lewis Carroll "Alice" books. Now he has turned his attention to another masterpiece of childhood -- Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle." In his new melodrama (Del Tredici suggests that it might be called a "concerto for narrator and orchestra") he tells the familiar -- and still resonant -- tale of a man who naps for 20 years, awakening to find the world completely changed. This afternoon at 1 and 3, Leonard Slatkin will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere performances. Brian Stokes Mitchell will serve as the narrator.
-- Tim Page
At the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Family Concert tickets are $15-$18. Information: www.kennedy-center.org or 202-467-4600. The concerts are preceded by a musical instrument "petting zoo," a project of the Women's Committee for the National Symphony. After the 3 p.m. performance, Slatkin, Del Tredici and text author Ray Worman will participate in a Kids' Chat with the audience.
"ORIGINS OF EUROPEAN PRINTMAKING: Fifteenth-Century Woodcuts and Their Public," at the National Gallery for only one more week, may not have the world's catchiest title. It is, however, one of those very rare shows that must truly not be missed: It opens doors onto an art form's birth. It shows us how prints, an artistic medium we now take for granted, first entered European culture at the bottom end of things, as clip-art Bible illustrations and cheap religious souvenirs. Within a hundred years or so, they were on their way to reaching the high end as art.
-- Blake Gopnik
At the National Gallery of Art West Building, Constitution Avenue between Third and Seventh streets NW, through Nov. 27. Free. Call 202-737-4215 or visit www.nga.gov.