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Chris & Don. A Love Story

4.5 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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(Feb 24, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 painter Don Bachardy, thirty years his junior. From Isherwood's Kit-Kat-Club years in Weimar-era Germany to the couple's first meeting on the sun-kissed beaches of 1950s Malibu, their against-all-odds saga is brought to dazzling life through beautiful, rare home movies and reminiscences from Don and many of their friends, including Leslie Caron and Liza Minnelli. With Isherwood's exemplary status as an out-and-proud gay hero, and Bachardy's eventual artistic triumph away from the considerable shadow of his life partner, Chris & Don: A Love Story is above all a joyful celebration of a most extraordinary couple.

- 16:9 anamorphic transfer, formatted for widescreen televisions
- More of Chris and Don's home movies, including footage from the sets of The Rose Tattoo (1955) and King Vidor's War and Peace (1956)
- Deleted sequences with Don Bachardy, including an interview on gay marriage
- Deleted interviews with actress Gloria Stuart (Titanic), filmmaker John Boorman (Point Blank), and actress Leslie Caron (Gigi)
- "Don on Chris": An 8-page printed monograph of Bachardy's paintings of Isherwood
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks


Chris & Don is a documentary that takes the viewer on a nostalgic journey through artist Don Bachardy’s past, as he recounts his 35-year romance with author Christopher Isherwood. Ample interview footage starring Bachardy, now in his 70s, recalls his trials with Isherwood’s older, more famous friends, and his struggle to discover his own identity through portrait painting. Descriptions of how the couple endured ridicule to maintain not only a homosexual relationship but also a bond despite their 30-year age difference during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s in Hollywood, is what makes this documentary more than a wistful romp through the past. Directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara (Mandala) tastefully edited in vintage footage of the couple on beaches and on film sets in what will seem to most like a charmed lifestyle. For those seeking straight biography about Isherwood’s career, however, Chris & Don is not the film. Though there are book excerpts read by Michael York (who starred in Cabaret based on Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories”) to reflect Isherwood’s feelings about the relationship, the focus of this film is on Bachardy and his memories of his father figure. It is uncanny how Isherwood’s influence on his lover becomes apparent, as Bachardy has the same British accent and mannerisms as Isherwood. Conversely, Chris & Don does not feel preachy in the activist sense. It merely portrays, like Bachardy’s colorful paintings, sincere visions of an author and man, who nurtured Bachardy in what was obviously an extraordinary relationship. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Leslie Caron, Christopher Isherwood, Michael York
  • Directors: Guido Santi, Tina Mascara
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: February 24, 2009
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,021 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Chris & Don. A Love Story" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
... 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.
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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).
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