It has been said that immortality offers three vessels: via love, via art, and via progeny. Watching Chris & Don: A Love Story, we witness a kind of immortality through a trinity of all three.
Your corespondent couldn’t tell you the last time a love story evoked tears. Maybe E.T.? And yet here, watching a documentary about Chrsitopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, tears flowed.
Don Bachardy was sixteen the first time he met Christopher Isherwood, and 30 years separated them. Bachardy was eighteen when the relationship of more than 30 years began. We learn that, like many young boys older, successful men bring around, this boy seemed vapid, was celebrity obsessed, and not taken very seriously. And while none can say exactly what Isherwood saw, in many ways, in retrospect anyway, Bachardy was a kind of perfect canvas upon which Isherwood created his greatest work.
We hear friends and acquaintances wondering just how Bachardy picked up his accent and mannerisms, we learn Isherwood was how Bachardy began and became expert in portraiture, and we see the ideas and loves and passions of Isherwood are truly living, right now, and still. Isherwood was teacher, mentor, lover and, in many ways, creator.
When we leave, traces remain. Dirt from the shoes of a departed guest. With Christopher Isherwood, we see that, though he left, traces are fully present – images and ideas and passions. Nothing supernatural, just very human, and this movie strongly reminds us of how love, while the lover is remembered anyway, can, if allowed, survive.
Christopher and his Kind has a most lovely ending, moving in many ways, in part because of the offer of that beautiful illusion of a present totally fulled with omniscience and hope and love. Isherwood, just arrived in the United States, describes the boy he wouldn’t meet for many years:
He is already living in the city where you will settle. He will be near you for many years without your meeting. But it would be no good if you did meet now. At present, he is only four years old.”