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“Chris and Don” an Intergenerational Love Story

Today’s post is the third installment of our special features series.  Today’s topic is the documentary film Chris and Don: A Love Story.  However, since we are on the topic of film, I want to congratulate Dustin Lance Black and Sean Penn on their Oscar wins for their work on Milk, best original screenplay and best actor respectively .

From the official "Chris and Don: A Love Story" site.

From the official "Chris and Don: A Love Story" site.

Chris and Don, which is being released this Tuesday on DVD, explores the long and extraordinary relationship between writer Christopher Isherwood and painter Don Bachardy.  Chris Isherwood is probably best known for his book The Berlin Stories which was one of the inspirations for the musical Cabaret.  Don Bachardy has been portrait artist working on the west coast for decades.

Formally the film is spartanly, yet beautifully realized.  The story of Chris and Don is told through snapshots, home footage, Isherwood’s diaries, and narration by Bachardy himself.  Additional narration is provided by Michael York, who played William Bradshaw in the film adaptation of Cabaret.  A few anecdotes are illustrated by actors that reenact events in the lives of Chris and Don, fortunately these are done subtly and they blend nearly seamlessly into the film as a whole.

The narrative of the film follows a primarily chronological order.  The stage is set by an examination of Isherwood’s early life in Britain, his experience in Europe, and then his move to Los Angeles.  It was there that he met Don, a man thirty years his junior.  It then explores the burgeoning of their unlikely romance.

The film then turns its focus to their relationship proper.  It explores the extraordinary aspects of their partnership such as being unabashedly out in 1950s Hollywood and the large age difference between them.  It reflects on the more common aspects of their life together.  And ultimately the film follows the relationship through Isherwood’s battle with cancer and Bachardy’s life after his partner’s passing.

While this film is a touching biography about two incredible men, it is also, refreshingly, a nuanced look at what a successful intergenerational relationship can look like.  Their story is an inspiration for those of us attracted to others of a different age, and hopefully an eye-opener to those that find our relationships questionable.  It explores the benefits and challenges confronted by men in may to december relationships.  We see Chris help Don cultivate his talents, but we also see Don struggle with developing an individual identity in the presence of his older an more established partner.  We also witness the care Chris is given by his partner during his final days, but also the loss Don must endure.  Ultimately the film is a rewarding vision of the strength and potential found in age disparate relationships, a true portrait of intergenerational love.

If you have seen Chris and Don: A Love Story, leave us a comment and share with us what you thought about the film.

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3 Responses

  1. […] the past week I reread Christopher Isherwood’s novel A Single Man.  It came up in the film Chris and Don , bringing the book back to my attention.  I had read it several years ago, before being in a […]

  2. The history of intergenerational attraction whether it be platonic or physically intimate is as old as time itself. In my youth I had several longterm such relationships; mostly they were platonic. They helped form me into the the person I am today.I valued the wisdom and care expressed by my older mentors.Such relationships ought not to be seen as exploitive and can be quite rewarding for both parties.

  3. […] author Christopher Isherwood and his younger partner Don Bachardy.  I’ve discussed the film at length before, so won’t do so here.  That said, I highly recommend it for its overall positive look at a […]

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