“This is one of those avant garde things,” the elderly Cole Porter snorts amusedly as De-Lovely opens. He’s observing his own life and career unfolding before him, commenting from “offstage” on the action. It’s the most unusual and delightful film-
There were tears running down my face from the get-
Which is probably why I cried, for De-Lovely — as much a valentine to Porter as a biography of him — is redolent with romantic history, following Porter’s career as it took him from one iconic moment of the 20th century to another, from Paris in the 20s to Broadway in the 30s to Hollywood in the 50s. And woven through it all are Porter’s own tunes, the soundtrack of those impossibly fabulous places and times now the soundtrack for his life. There’s not a lot of concern devoted to placing those songs on the Porter timeline where he wrote them, which is perfect: Instead, they occur at the moments, perhaps, that consciously inspired them, or at those moments that serve to highlight the unconscious inspirations for his work in Porter’s complicated life.
Cuz tunes like “Let’s Misbehave” and “Night & Day” prompt knowing nods and little a-ha noises in their contexts here, illustrating Porter’s relationship with his devoted but long-
Maybe Cole Porter never did, as is depicted here, coach the handsome young leading man of his latest Broadway show in how to sing “Night & Day.” Maybe, as in another scene awash in sweetly old-
Paris in the 00s
Before Sunset, as exquisitely romantic in its own way as De-Lovely, didn’t leave me dancing on air, but strolling on it, feeling like I’d just spent unexpected time with dear old friends and learned something new about them along the way. This is a perfectly perfect little film, down to earth and honest about love and sex and human relationships in ways that very few films ever are. It’s so charmingly simple a film, so absorbing and ambitious in its simplicity. I love, love, love this movie.
Those old friends, Jesse (Ethan Hawke: Taking Lives, Training Day) and Celine (Julie Delpy)? The funny thing is, they’re not old friends of mine. I’d never seen 1995’s Before Sunrise until the night before the Sunset screening, though now I’m kicking myself: How could I have let this movie, the first one, get away from me all these years? I was absolutely riveted by it, stunned by its anti-
And now, in Sunset, we have a portrait of Generation X a decade on, exhausted with those practicalities and haunted by the fleeting moment in time when the barricades came down and we left ourselves vulnerable to the dreaded heartbreak. Cuz we see here, as Jesse and Celine meet again, not quite accidentally, in Paris, that they forged a far more powerful connection in that one short night than even they suspected at the time, and that it has affected their lives in the interim dramatically. They wander the city — the real Paris, not a touristy Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa Paris — catching up in the brief late afternoon before Jesse has to catch a plane back to New York. How can it be that simply eavesdropping on the conversation of two people can be so engaging, so compulsively watchable? But it is. Unfolding in real time, this is 80 delightful, contemplative minutes of learning how we never escape the past… and if you watch both Sunrise and Sunset back to back, it’s even more poignant: Jesse’s story, for instance, in the earlier film about growing up with miserable parents who stayed together for his sake resonates anew as we learn about Jesse’s life today.
Before Sunset is a starker, in some ways, than the first film: there’re no Ferris wheels or wacky locals lending Jesse and Celine’s time together an air of larkish adventure. This is blunt reality today. But Sunset is just as luminous, with a warm fluidity that feels entirely off-