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What is it about historical epics that makes for great films? Is it the old buttons? After all, it takes an obsessive wardrobe designer to pull off the right look for a period film. Of course, a sweeping story and beautiful cast can’t hurt the effort, either. Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film The Leopard has these, buttons, and more, tracing the story of Prince Salina (Burt Lancaster, who delivered his lines in English to be later dubbed into Italian) as he watches the social and political landscape of 19th-century Italy change during the Risorgimento, or “resurgence.” The film’s major symbol of this change is the prince’s nephew Tancredi (a rakishly handsome Alain Delon), who switches sides and lovers as it suits him. After flirting with his cousin Concetta, he becomes instantly smitten with Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), who radiates sex appeal from her first moment onscreen—she’s surely got one of the best entrances in cinema. Just don’t watch Lancaster’s lips too closely when the film screens at 8:15 p.m. (see Showtimes for a weekly schedule) at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Jason Powell)