ONE OF THIS YEAR'S loveliest films gets a momentary reprise from the march to oblivion tonight when Cinema Bethesda presents Eric Rohmer's "Autumn Tale" at the Bethesda Theatre Cafe. The movie watches the burgeoning of love in rural France, as the widowed owner of a vineyard and a college professor meet and discover an attraction. But all this, complex as it is, is made all the more complex by the efforts of her best friend to arrange a relationship for her. Rohmer has been making movies the same way for about 40 years: quiet but slyly observed tales of angst and humor among a set of people remarkable for their lack of remarkability. Nothing ever explodes and hardly anyone ever laughs, either. However, they are so acute in their insight into the zoo of humanity that they are always admirable, and this is one of his best.

--Stephen Hunter

At Bethesda Theatre Cafe, 7719 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. Today at 5:30 p.m. $12. 301-365-3679.


DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM returns this week with two ballet programs, each containing a premiere. New to local audiences will be Dwight Rhoden's "Twist," set to the music of Antonio Carlos Scott, and Robert Garland's "Return," to soul tunes by James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Also scheduled are such company staples as "Firebird," Billy Wilson's "Ginastera" and "South African Suite." The latter will be minus the sinuous talents of Alicia Graf, for whom parts of the ballet were created; she is out for an extended time with a knee injury.

--Sarah Kaufman

At the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tuesday through next Sunday at 8 p.m., Saturday and next Sunday at 2 p.m. $25-$62. 202-467-4600.


LOOKING FOR A DIFFERENT "Nutcracker"? Try Shirim's "Klezmer Nutcracker," in which the Boston klezmer band reinvents Tchaikovsky's much-beloved holiday ballet as the festive music of Eastern European Jews in ways that are entertainingly familiar. For instance, "Trepak" transforms into "Kosatsky 'Til You Dropsky," and "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" becomes "Dance of the Latke Queens." It's not really that much of a stretch for Shirim, which can be heard on the soundtrack to Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" and whose clarinetist, Glenn Dickson, originally hails from Vienna (the Virginia variety). The concert will also include traditional klezmer tunes, Chopin and Brahms klezmer-style, and original works.

--Richard Harrington

At the Washington Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($16 for members). For information call 202-518-9400.


THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH of Italian philosopher-poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) was celebrated last year in his homeland by the publication of a book of his poems-- including his most well known, "The Infinite"-- alongside illustra- tions by contemporary artist Walter Valentini. The two artists share the same region of birth, the Marches, and also a sensibility for expressing the loneliness of man. An exhibition of pages from the oversize art book, featuring Leopardi's verse and Valentini's geometric etchings in gold, black and silver, is currently on display at the Italian Cultural Center.

--Nicole Lewis

At the Italian Cultural Center, 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW., Suite 104. Free. Through Dec. 31. 202-387-5161.