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I wasn't sure what to expect when I started to view this film. What I saw is a warm remembrance of things past. A sweet-natured young man who is smitten by Hollywood happens to meet a perfect match in an older man who is part of the star making world of Hollywood. Fortunatly for them both, they quickly move beyond merely taking advantage of each other. What develops is a mutual dependence that forms the core of each man; Isherwood is probably saved from becoming embittered, and Bachardy is probably saved from a lifetime of disappointment. What would have happened if Isherwood had not been rich and famous? Who knows. What would have happened if they had not fallen in love?
I enjoyed the insights into the cruel world of closeted Hollywood. Unfortunately, some of it remains. This film is a monument to being true to oneself.
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I purchased this DVD and was extremely disappointed. I expected to see a love story between a older man and a younger man. Instead it was a biography of the couple told by the younger when he was much older. The story line was nice but there was absolutely nothing heart warming. There is no nudity which is fine but it was listed in the catagory of "guys who get butt naked for sex" , well there was no love making at all.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Essential Gay HistoryFeb. 28 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
"Chris & Don: A Love Story" (Zeitgeist Films) is a portrait of the 34 year relationship of British writer Christopher Isherwood and portrait artist Don Bachardy (30 years Isherwood's junior). This film, one of the best of 2008 (and one that would surely have been mentioned on my "ten best" list had it only played in a theatre in Tallahassee), is an important and inspiring document of a courageous, openly gay love story, perhaps the most blatant and visible of the last century after Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara have culled an impressive amount of archival footage of these singular artists, including scenes with W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, Igor Stravinsky, and mixed them with interviews and comments from Leslie Caron, James White, Gloria Stuart and John Boorman. The wisest move made by these filmmakers, one which elevates and imbues this work with genuine legitimacy, was to focus their camera on Bachardy and to have excerpts from Isherwood's diaries read by actor Michael York. They met on a California beach in 1952 when Bachardy was 16. Isherwood was the celebrated author of The Berlin Stories (not yet famous as the source of "Cabaret", or the author of "A Single Man" and "Christopher and His Kind"). Their relationship didn't coalesce for a few years, but once it did, the two became inseparable. Bachardy is brutally candid about the relationship, how they were viewed by friends and family; but more importantly, how they interacted with one another, the stresses and strains of coming from different countries, classes and generations. Bachardy, forever youthful in appearance, details a brief period when he insisted the relationship be "open" to provide him an opportunity to sew his wild oats. Still, with a thirty year age gap, Isherwood often seems a benign cross between Humbert Humbert and Svengali. "Chris & Don" is a treasure for those well acquainted with the work of both men. However, for those unfamiliar, this 90 minute film will both illuminate and entertain.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A Relationship, a Love, Explored....Feb. 28 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
... so perfectly, so eloquently, in this marvelous documentary: Chris & Don: A Love Story.
In 1952, Don Barchardy meets author and Hollywood celebrity Christopher Isherwood on a beach in Santa Monica, and a relationship is born. What's remarkable, among many remarkable things in this story, is that Chris was 30 years older than Don, who was just coming out of his adolescence. They lived together, for over 30 years, unreservedly and openly as a couple, amidst the rampant homophobia and discrimination that existed, even in "liberal" California.
The life wanders through the current life of Don as his reminiscences about his great love, the life of Chris before meeting Don (with particular emphasis on Chris' time in Berlin, which eventually spawned "Cabaret") and their life together. The filmmakers framed the story beautifully with animals; that being, Chris and Don referred to themselves in the context of animal personas, Chris being an old horse, Don an affectionate cat, and they sprinkle delightful animation throughout the movie. The effect is charming, and adds a poignant punctuation mark at the end.
Perhaps the most moving part of the entire story occurs at the end, as Don recounts Chris' last days, and his endless drawing of his love. The pictures haunt, the sadness looms. It's then you get the sense of the realness of their relationship, how real all relationships are (despite conservative groups' attempts to thwart them), and the depth of what they meant to each other.
Don's honesty drives this movie. He holds nothing back as he recounts his life, as well as the life of Chris. You have to admire someone for opening his heart so much to a camera crew; I doubt many of us would be willing to have such clarity. In a way, it really brings us closer to Chris, as I am sure was Don's intent in making this documentary.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. Watching it in the theater with a rapt audience was powerful, watching at home, privately, is even more powerful.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
... that raised eyebrowsApril 6 2009
Charles S. Houser
- Published on Amazon.com
This documentary recounts the long, intimate relationship between author Christopher Isherwood (Berlin Stories ... which became I Am a Camera ... which became Cabaret) and the portrait artist Don Bachardy. Isherwood has been dead for over 20 years, so the documentary consists primarily of an extended one-sided interview with Bachardy (we hear his thoughts but not his interrogator's questions) as he knocks about an enviable Southern California beach house full of tasteful mementos of his life with Isherwood, reads Isherwood's diaries (voice-over provided by Michael York), and sketches a smattering of nude youths. Bachardy's speaking voice is strangely accented and somewhat affected, and is full of "ums" and "uhs." While Bachardy has charm and the details of his story are interesting, I found myself getting increasingly relieved whenever the film shifted to archival footage.
While the film will possibly appeal to a broad-minded general audience, it will be of special interest, I think, to gay men (and possibly lesbian) viewers. For one thing, the film shows the way homosexuals in days past had to define their relationships for themselves. Before gay marriage (with its implied monogamy) became a cause celebre, men like Chris and Don needed to consciously craft their own understanding of what they expected of one another. Don speaks frankly about both being taken to Hollywood parties openly as Isherwood's partner/date (and enduring homophobic comments from Joseph Cotton) and about his interest in seeing men outside their relationship. Yet somehow their relationship with one another was primary and mutually fulfilling. It is also interesting from the perspective of the thirty year difference in their ages (Don was barely legal when they started their relationship). As in classical man/boy relationships, there was an element of mentor and protege. Isherwood wisely encouraged Don to pursue drawing and painting, rather than writing, and their relationship does not seem to have suffered from competitiveness. It was gratifying to see that Don had a sense of himself, one Isherwood encouraged, and that Don was no mere boy toy or trophy wife. Thirdly, this film is likely to interest gay men because of the sense it gives of how much has and hasn't changed for gays since the early 1950s.
The filmmakers have done a good job of augmenting Don's story with archival footage and interview clips from people like Leslie Caron and James White. They also seemed to have a realistic sense of their subjects' standing on the world stage (they acknowledge that Isherwood was a good though not a major 20th century writer). During the course of this film we get to see a number of portraits Bachardy did of Isherwood, including some of the many he drew during Isherwood's final days. The filmmakers show but do not assess the quality of Don's work. The earlier portraits seem to have been mostly charcoal sketches or black and white watercolors (many of which were stunning); these were followed by minimalist, gestural drawings employing thick brush strokes (impactful when they hit the mark); and his current paintings are in the bright colors of the Fauves (which struck me as erratic and infantile). If he's an artist in decline, he doesn't seem to notice or mind. In the end, it is his life that's his greatest creation and it is an honor to hear him tell his story without complaint or apology.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Chris and Don: A Love Story -- Nay, not Humbert Humbert at allJan. 18 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
On February 14, 1953, Don Bachardy (18) meets his brother's lover Christopher Isherwood (48) on a beach in California and, unbeknownst to both parties, is locked in for life--a life that would enlarge into creative soars for a portrait artist yet to know his calling and an established author awaiting his eternal subject. Yet "Chris and Don: A Love Story" is not simply about the ungovernable urge to create the life of art that only an artist can know where often the object is art itself; it is more humbly about two lovers' bonedeep adamancy to preserve as much of life as one can in a durable yet aesthetic medium. Here, the intended substance is neither the piece drawn nor the word written but the protraction of human essence by embalming it in text, in sketch. The documentary, much like its own subjects, is the act of reinforcing memory with creative proofs-- the body of evidence, which, in the process of its production, inspires more memories than any paper or celluloid can hold. A sketch of a gnarled Chris, haggard with cancer, opens the smell of the author, the smell of the ink-then in the charcoal-now, and the taste of that morning on this morning that you, as spectator, have just been made privy to. It is a story of an artist drawing an author while the author writes his muse into immortality all at once. But symbiosis can sometimes be brutal.
Amid this Edenic coalescence breathes the quiet defiance of a ritual-weary, mid-aged Chris Isherwood against heteronorms that are predictably ageist in creed. What could have been (and was) perceived as Isherwood's Humbert Humbertish captivity of the sun-sinewed boy-Lolita is now cited as one of the primary prompters in the gay liberation canon. Yet Humbert Humbertish it all was in many ways as dangerously young Don, calling himself "an unconscious impersonator," willingly and star-struckly serves as Chris' substrate, replicating his accent, his Cheshire mannerism, his sparse diction. Eclipsed by Chris' deserved fame and proportionate clout, Don confesses, "I wanted people to like me for who I really was but I wasn't sure myself who I was. The only thing I knew that I was good at was drawing people..." And draw he did, and with it came the irrepressible desire to break free from the only lover he had known. Chris' enabling of Don's art pushes the latter to gauge the cost of unequal sexual experience with his seasoned, three-decade-distant partner; in short, he goes out. Plumbs the sea. All Chris wants is for young Don to come home at the end of the day after his shenanigans. Which he does in the late 60s. (Sometimes).
But Don does return for good and draws Chris and Chris only in the last few days of his life, chronicling the coming of his death piecemeal in a preemptively elegiac set of sketches. Chris Isherwood bares his all, his full, bleak nakedness in sacred singularity with his scribe. For Don's furious fingers, each tender stroke is a prayer for bonus time. Chris dies; Don spends the day drawing his corpse lest memory alone betray. These last images of depleted youth are so deeply lyrical that one can't but wonder if the body's shriveling in the embarrassment of age is beauty itself and unto its own. They reveal the kind of lovely grotesqueness that only death can boast. Guido Santi and Tina Mascara juxtapose them against a lithe-yet-withered Don feverishly working out at the gym. The story--the text--closes with the artist in his solitary atelier where all that is left are drawers of pictures and shelves of books in poetic arrest, all the company a man has shored for a night to allay "the foul rag and boneshop of the heart."
Sabrina Sadique Reviewed on July 20, 2008
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Love Story That Defied The OddsApril 3 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
If anyone ever listened to his own drummer-- even though he was born in Great Britain and far away from the likes of Thoreau who made the phrase famous-- Christopher Isherwood certainly lived life by his own rules. Born of an upper class British family in 1904, he went against his mother's wishes that he become a don by deliberately flunking out of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He then went to Berlin in 1930 where sexual freedom was in abundance before the rise of Hitler. Isherwood came to the U. S. in 1939, settled in Santa Monica and became lovers with Don Bachardy, 30 years his junior, whom he met with the latter was perhaps 16-- according to Barchardy's remembrance in this documentary-- and the two settled into a very public relationship that lasted 30 years until Isherwood's death in 1986. "Chris and Don: A Love Story" is a brilliant documentary of that relationship. Much of the hour and a half long film is told by Bachardy who is now in his 70's. There is also archival footage of Isherwood, commentary by Liza Minelli-- who looks like a million dollars-- and Leslie Caron with voice over by Michael York.
The first thing you notice is that Bachardy speaks exactly like Isherwood. It is obvious that Isherwood in many ways molded the younger man in his own image. This unorthodox relationship seems to have worked on every level as Isherwood became a fatgher figure, mentor and lover to the younger Bachardy, sending him to art school where he was able to become an artist in his own right rather than just Isherwood's young lover. Bachardy talks about the time in 1963-64, that he describes as rocky, when he considered leaving Isherwood. He had argued tdhat since Isherwood had had sexual freedom and the opportunity to meet other people and have other lovers before he met Bachardy, that he should have the same privilege. In a particularly sweet gesture, Isherwood had decided that the two lovers should not have an animal since some of the affection that they might have for each other would be given to the animal, so the two men because horse (Isherwood) and cat (Bachardy). When Barchardy went out cruising, Isherwood always wanted to know, upon the younger man's return if he had caught a mouse. During this difficult period of their relationship, Isherwood wrote what I believe is his best novel, A SINGLE MAN. It covers one day in the life of a college professor whose lover has just died. It was Isherwood's way of imagining what his life would be like should Barchardy leave him.
Bachardy also talks about life after Isherwood, recounting in a particularly moving sequence how he sketched his lover during his final illness and even afer he had died, and discusses his life as an artist as well. (By the way, everyone should live in a house as beautiful as their cottage in Santa Monica.) The DVD has a lot of extras: too much commentary by the actress Gloria Stuart, Bachardy on same sex marriage, Bachardy on his art collection, home movies of Christopher and Don in Mexico, on the set of "War and Peace" (1955) and "The Rose Tattoo" (1956) with footage of Tennessee Williams being casual as well.
This is one of the best documentaries I have seen in a very long time.