The Last Metro -- At the Key in Georgetown.

It is not required to write a 10-page essay in French after seeing a Francois Truffaunt film, but his admirers always seem to be prepared to do so. The celebrated French film maker and analyzer had himself offered suggestions from which to begin one on his latest film, "The Last Metro."

His motivation, he wrote, was to "satisfy three long-time dreams: to take the camera backstage in a theater, to evoke the climate of the Occupation, and to Catherine Deneuve the role of a responsible woman."

He has thus made a film starring Catherine Deneuve in the role of a responsible theatrical manager and actress during the Occupation.

No self-respecting student of the cinema could leave it at that. For example, at least six pages could be spent on the title, which refers to the last subway car each night before the Nazi-imposed curfew, and the timing of plays so that their audiences can get home on it. Discuss the symbolism in terms of the political climate, the psychology of a beauty not in her first youth, and the relationship between art (the play) and reality (the metro).

Nevertheles, "The Last Metro" would not get out of the station, so to speak, if it did not have something else on which to run. And this is neither plot or romance, both of which are barely sketched in, much less political or artistic commentary. What "The Last Metro" has is atmosphere -- thick, smoky, you-can-eat-it-with-a-spoon atmosphere, that is as much from seeing Catherine Deneuve in the rectangular fur coats and confectionary hats of the '40s as it is from watching the character she plays commute between an underground lover onstage and an above-board lover underground.

Fashion -- fashion in its literal sense and it application to ideas -- is what this film is about. The clear moral choice, perfectly set in a stylish past, is irresistible.