Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chris & Don: A Love Story

The documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story chronicles the intergenerational love affair between the writer Christopher Isherwood and the artist Don Bachardy. They met when Isherwood was 46, a full thirty years older than little Bachardy. Bachardy was quite a morsel when he was young. Who wouldn't want that? But still, Isherwood's friends must have been creeped out by the whole thing, moreso since Isherwood initially slept with Bachardy's slightly older brother first.

They stayed together forever, and when Isherwood lay dying in their home, Bachardy furiously sketched him, and kept sketching him even after he died. I suppose that's romantic. Much is made in the film of their cutesy nicknames to each other - Isherwood was Horse, and Bachardy was Cat. There's tons of dire animation featuring these critter aliases. The low point is when, during a rough patch, Bachardy sends Isherwood an apologetic letter signed "Your overwrought pussy." Indeed, this might have made a good title for the film.

The filmmaker's biggest problem is convincing people that it is not horrible for an aging British fag to fall in love and live with a teenage boy. As gay men, we know that there really isn't much difference in a gay man's nature, whether he is 16 or 86. Being horny for cock certainly brings everyone up to speed, and anyway, big deal. I know lots of gay couples with vast age differences between them.

Nevertheless, in a review for NOW Magazine, Susan G. Cole goes out of her way to rationalize the relationship, saying that the elder cared for the boy "almost as a father might for a son. Yet you get the sense that the connection was hugely productive and wholly healthy." Oh thank God for that.

But wait, there's more. Susan G. Cole finishes her missive with this admonishment: "For all you chicken hawks out there, don't think this doc gives permission for older gays to exploit young people. This story unfolds in a particular time and place. And just about everything - including the development of a vast network of queer youth - has changed. Hands off."

Wow. Does Susan G. Cole think chicken hawks read her reviews, and does she think that they would require permission to do what they do, and that they would find that permission in this slightly dull and earnest documentary?

Who's the overwrought pussy now?