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OPENING SEPTEMBER 3

Elegant and old-fashioned (or perhaps elegantly old-fashioned), The Earrings of Madame de… was first released in 1953, when such extravagantly appointed costume dramas were losing their appeal. (Perhaps it would, and should, have been made earlier, if World War II hadn’t disrupted the career of director Max Ophuls, a German Jew who, after a sojourn in Hollywood, made his best-regarded films in France.) Like the director’s La Ronde, this is a circular tale, with the connections between Madame de… (Danielle Darrieux) and her husband (Charles Boyer) and lover (Vittorio di Sica) established by the circuit of a pair of diamond earrings first given to her by her husband and later, after a detour through Constantinople, presented to her by her lover. The film is as thoroughly mannered as the fin de siècle high-society in which it’s set, but that just highlights the shard of passion that eventually pierces its suffocatingly proper atmosphere, while Ophuls’ assured artificiality and stately tracking shots presage Alain Resnais and Jacques Demy. At the Key Theater, 1222 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 333-5100. (Mark Jenkins)