- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Considered one of the greatest artists who ever lived, Rembrandt van Rijn focused on man’s spiritual preoccupations, as the National Gallery of Art’s Rembrandt’s Late Religious Portraits emphatically confirms. The artist was a rarity in 17th-century Protestant Holland in illustrating stories from the Bible and depicting its holy figures, especially during the 1650s and early 1660s. Almost superhumanly, the Gallery managed to gather 41 of these rarely seen works — 17 oils and 24 etchings — from far-flung collections. They include his “Self-Portrait as the Apostle Paul” and “The Apostle Bartholomew.” The museum also added several of the artist’s religious etchings in the adjoining Dutch Cabinet Galleries. At the National Gallery, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Through May 1. Free. 202/737-4215.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

Although its acknowledged source is a 1945 French movie called “The Cage of Nightingales,” the beguiling new French import The Chorus also borrows a narrative framework from “Cinema Paradiso,” along with the actor-producer Jacques Perrin, cast again as a successful artistic personality informed of the demise of a beloved mentor. (Not so coincidentally, Mr. Perrin is also the uncle and professional mentor of Christophe Barratier, the film’s director and co-writer.) In this case flashbacks recall an admirable teacher, portrayed with irresistible warmth and deftness by the character actor Gerard Jugnot, a favorite in France whose movies remain virtually unknown in the United States. “The Chorus” should end that oversight while illustrating the potential of an offbeat pedagogical musical. Added to the faculty of a school for orphaned and delinquent boys in the Auvergne, circa 1949, Mr. Jugnot’s character breaks down their resistance by organizing a choir and composing songs from his own backlog of unpublished work. Youth choirs have enjoyed a big revival in France as a result of the film’s popularity. It’s easy to believe the salubrious influence.

— Gary Arnold

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