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Chris & Don. A Love Story
Chris Don A Love Story
Actors: Leslie Caron, Christopher Isherwood, Michael York, Don Bachardy, Liza Minnelli
Director: Guido Santi;Tina Mascara
Genres: Drama
UR     2009     1hr 30min

Chris & Don: A Love Story is the true-life story of the passionate three-decade relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood (whose Berlin Stories was the basis for the beloved Cabaret) and American portrait p...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Leslie Caron, Christopher Isherwood, Michael York, Don Bachardy, Liza Minnelli
Director: Guido Santi;Tina Mascara
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
DVD Release Date: 02/24/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Sharing Love
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 11/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Chris and Don: A Love Story"

Sharing Love

Amos Lassen

"Chris and Don: A Love Story" is just that--a beautiful love story that tells of the feelings shared between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy and it is as romantic as it is filled with the history of our lives. The two men fell in love long before gay marriage was ever thought about. Their love began one day on a beach in Malibu, California and lasted until Isherwood died in 1986. This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen and it is the documentary of a great romance.
Christopher Isherwood was a noted author who is primarily famous for his book "Berlin Stories" which was adapted for stage and film as "Cabaret". He was born in England in 1904 and at the age of 25 he moved to Germany to be with his friend, W.H. Auden. He stayed there until the Nazi party made life uncomfortable for gay men and he came to America in 1939 where he found sexy men and eastern religions. But it was not until 1956 when the love between Chris and Don began. In this feature length documentary we see the remarkable lives of the two men and there is a lot of never seen before footage which was shot by the two including interviews with Liza Minelli and Leslie Caron. The two lived their lives together openly and proudly and did not care about controversy and this was at a time when gay relationships were not accepted. Bachardy was simply an artist while Isherwood was a member of the literati and Don often felt as if he was disregarded by his lover's famous friends. He had to realize that he had to function independently and this caused him to question whether to stay in the relationship or not but he realized that his love for his partner was too great to walk away from. The two attempted projects together and in 1981 when Chris was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Bachardy nursed him through the disease and through the last six months of his life. Bachardy decided to paint only Isherwood and this became the two men's project.
Again I must remind you that the two men were lovers at a time when this kind of relationship was not acceptable and the movie could have showed their love as scandalous and unusual but the directors, Guido Santi and Tina Mascara give us the men's love as sophisticated and gentle as well as perfectly natural. The men shared a sentimental love which involved an artistic exchange that comes close to art itself. The film is cinematically innovative and touching and romantic and as a documentary it is emotionally involving and it is absolutely true. It never indulges in the issues of homosexuality and it looks at the love between Chris and Don as natural and unaffected. It is an ordinary story of passion which shows two people sharing both emotionally and artistically and their love is pure. Footage is mixed with current and archival film as well as cartoons and the result is beauty. The film abounds with intimate details and we see Don is still thriving at 74.
A lot is covered in the film including not only sexuality but aging and death, spirituality, literature and art, celebrities and alternative life styles, tragedy, mental health, drug use and so much more but above all is the theme of love--love that is pure and simple. There is a wealth of first hand material and the legacy of the love of the two men is so rich and beautiful that I find myself tearing up as I write this review.
What great timing for this movie--our country is now deciding whether or not it should legalize same sex marriage and this movie further shows proof that such unions should be sanctioned. There is no agenda in the movie except to show us how love transcends all and this love story is so real and so powerful that you cannot help but feel good. It will open your eyes and it will break your heart as it shows a growth of artistic confidence as a young man, Don, with no strong vision is loved and thereby encouraged to find his way. Here is a movie that could have been sordid yet it emerges as a thing of beauty and a testament to love. If you see no other documentary this year, make sure this is the one you do see.
Chris and Don: A Love Story -- Nay, not Humbert Humbert at a
Sabrina Sadique | Cambridge, MA | 01/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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 artists 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 not 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 in cancerous boniness, opens the smell of the author, the smell of the ink-then in the charcoal-now, and the taste of that morning in this morning. It is a story of an artist drawing an author while the author writes his muse into immortality pari passu.

Amid this Edenic coalescence breathes the quiet defiance of a ritual-weary, mid-aged Chris Isherwood against societal prescriptions for public, age-sensitive heteronormativity. 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 brutally young Don, calling himself "an unconscious impersonator," willingly and star-struckly serves as Chris' substrate, replicating his accent, his Cheshire mannerism, and sparse diction. Eclipsed by Chris' deserved superluminosity and commensurate 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 urge 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 a seasoned, three-decade-distant partner; in short, go out and plumb the sea. All Chris wants is for Don to come home at the end of the day after his shenanigans. Which he does in the late 60's. (Sometimes.)

Like Paulie Bleeker for Juno MacGuff, Chris Isherwood is the cheese to Don Bachardy's macaroni. Don comes back 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. There is everything lyrical about these last soul-jolting images of depleted youth, the embarrassed shriveling of the body, the kind of lovely grotesqueness that only death can boast. Guido Santi and Tina Mascara cleverly juxtapose them against a lithe yet withered Don's feverish workouts at the gym, and close the story with the artist in his solitary atelier where all that is left are drawers of pictures and shelves of books in poetic timestill, 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

Essential Gay History
I. Sondel | Tallahassee, FL United States | 02/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

""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.
A Relationship, a Love, Explored....
James Hiller | Beaverton, OR | 02/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"... 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."