Monday, February 16, 2009

Malibu Stories: Movie of the Month, Part Three

I recently reviewed the following for Video
Librarian, and thought it was worth sharing.

(Tina Mascara and Guido Santi, US, 2008)

While in description, a documentary focusing on the ex-
periences of one pair of lovers might sound hermetic,
Chris & Don comes across as remarkably expansive.
-- Michael Koresky, indieWIRE

It's tempting to describe Chris & Don as a full-service doc-
umentary, because it covers a surprising amount of ground
in a brisk 90 minutes. The film doesn't just depict author Chris-
topher Isherwood's relationship with artist Don Bachardy, a
man 30 years his junior, but directors Tina Mascara and
Guido Santi, a couple themselves, give equal time to the
writer's lesser known, but equally engaging paramour.

If the British-born Isherwood (Berlin Stories) was initially at-
tracted to the Malibu-based Bachardy's youthful good looks, the length and quality of their three-decade relationship, which last-
ed until Isherwood's death in 1986, belies the superficiality that description suggests. Further, the men lived openly as a gay couple, and didn't suffer any substantial consequences for doing so, even though they first met in the famously closeted 1950s.

dy didn't
feel like
an equal
in the ey-
es of Isher-
wood's fam-
ous frien-
ong them,
Joan Crawford, and Montgomery Clift—his partner gave him the encouragement to pursue his own passions (Bachardy tried his hand at acting before hitting his stride when he turned to painting and drawing). Towards the end of Isherwood's life, Bachardy was sketching him exclusively; the author had become the subject.

Featuring readings by Michael York, who starred in Bob Fosse's
Isherwood-inspired Cabaret, and accentuated with animated line-
drawings, Mascara and Santi's affectionate portrait takes in litera-
ture, cinema, fine art, same-sex attraction, and mortality. Extra
features include the couple's home movies, extended interviews
with director John Boorman, actresses Leslie Caron and Gloria
Stuart, and Bachardy, who shares his thoughts about gay mar-
riage and the California art scene. Highly recommended.

Click here for Movie of the Month, Part Two: Wild Combination

Endnote: Slightly revised from the original text. Fosse's Sally
Bowles, Liza Minnelli, also appears in the documentary. Sadly,
Isherwood didn't much like her portrayal—he thought she was too
good (Bowles was more of an amateur)—but he loved York. Im-
ages from indieWIRE (Zeitgeist Films) and Corbis (Bettman, 1972).

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