The Top 5 Things to Do in Houston This Weekend: Max and the Junkmen, "The Age of Impressionism," Santa and More

Claude Sautet's 1971 crime drama Max and the Junkmen ("Max et les ferrailleurs") never hit American theaters, but fans have a chance to see it on Friday: A 35mm restored print is being screened as part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Revival film series. The story follows Max (Michel Piccoli), a wealthy Paris detective who's passionately devoted to stopping crime. Having lost his faith in the justice system after seeing a guilty criminal go free in court, Max contrives a convoluted plan to entrap a gang of local scrap thieves. While undercover, he convinces them to rob a small bank. All the while he's planning to foil the crime and hand them over to the police, becoming a hero. Things get complicated when he falls for Lily (Romy Schneider), a young German prostitute who happens to be the gangleader's girlfriend. Max and the Junkmen is a gripping film that spends long, wonderful moments building up its players before unleashing them on the ill-fated heist with shocking consequences. Piccoli plays Max with crazy urgency, and his performance is bolstered by Schneider's angelic performance.

7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit mfah.org. $9.

The Texas Repertory Theatre Company gives fans a different sort of holiday comedy with Greetings! , one of our choices for Saturday. Andy Gorski brings his fiancée home to meet his family on Christmas Eve. His fiancée's both Jewish and an atheist; his family's very Catholic, so things seem to be on a collision course until a miracle convinces everyone that they have more in common that they thought. Texas Rep Artistic Director Steven Fenley directs. The cast includes company members Alan Hall and Marylin Ocker; Greg Cote, Claire Anderson and Cameron Cooper make their Texas Rep debuts.

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Texas Repertory Theatre Company, 14243 Stuebner Airline. For information, call 281-583-7573 or visit texreptheatre.org. $35.

A host of guest artists, including conductor Nicholas McGegan and singers Dominique Labelle, Christopher Ainsile, Douglas Williams and Thomas Cooley join the Houston Symphony for the orchestra's annual production of Handel's Messiah, another choice for Saturday. The Houston Symphony Chorus, led by director Charles Hausmann, also performs. The program includes the "Hallelujah" chorus, "Ev'ry Valley Shall Be Exalted" and "Rejoice Greatly."

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $29 to $117.

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Heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, Sterling Clark and his wife, Francine, were actively collecting art in Paris during the first half of the 20th century. Now many of those works - from one-name-only artists like Renoir, Manet, Degas, Monet, Pisarro and Toulouse-Lautrec - are part of "The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute." Closing out a three-year international tour, with a stop at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston starting on Sunday, the exhibit features 73 paintings by 25 artists.

"This is a wide range of paintings that will give people a unique view of the high quality of French painting in the late 19th century, says Helga Aurisch, curator of European Art for the MFAH. "I saw it in London, and remember taking away a profound sense of awe at the high quality of the works." The exhibit, on tour while the institute undergoes a major building expansion, includes several of the best-known works from the collection, such as a formal portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, a stormy seascape by Claude Monet (see above) and a painting of dancers in a classroom by Edgar Degas. Other works range from Orientalist paintings by Gérôme to early-modern works by Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard.

All of the works are reflective of the Clarks' personal tastes. "It's a spectacular exhibition and we are thrilled to have the chance to present the show in Houston," says MFAH director Gary Tinterow. "The Clarks were some of the finest collectors of their time, and their distinctive sensibility and taste is evident in this remarkable selection of some of the most renowned paintings in the history of nineteenth-century French painting."

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through March 23. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7771 or visit mfah.org. $20 to $23.

On Sunday, it's the second annual Santa Hustle Half Marathon & 5K in Galveston. Each participant is issued an official Santa Claus hat, beard, and customized Santa drifit shirt in order to head down the course on Strand Avenue in a herd of Fathers Christmas. Along the route Christmas cookies are passed out to runners for that extra burst of holiday energy. There's an after-party at Saengerfest Park featuring music, food, and drinks to celebrate the accomplishment. It's not all just fun and games, though. The Santa Hustle benefits Toys for Tots, an organization that provides toys to needy children for Christmas. Founded by Marine reservists in the 1940s after Major Bill Hendricks's wife, Diane, was unable to locate an appropriate charity for donations of homemade dolls, Toys for Tots has been listed on the Forbes Gold Star list of charities. Bring unopened, new toys to the race.

8 a.m. The start and finish line location will be at Saengerfest Park, 23rd and Strand. For information, visit santahustle.com/galveston. $35 to $65 entry fee for race, free to spectators.

Jef With One F and Bob Ruggiero contributed to this post.

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