Couple Christopher Isherwood (left) and Don Bachardy grow old gracefully in soulful Chris & Don.
CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY (Guido Santi, Tina Mascara). 90 minutes. Screens Wednesday (December 10) at the Bloor as part of Doc Soup. See Indie & Rep Film. Rating: NNNN
For those of us who immediately go "yuck" at the idea of a man in his mid-40s hooking up with a 16-year-old boy, the documentary Chris & Don is an object lesson.
Writer Christopher Isherwood - famous for The Berlin Stories, the basis for the musical Cabaret - was 46 when he met Don Bachardy in 50s Los Angeles, and their relationship remained rock-solid until Isherwood died in 1986.
Bachardy, now in his 70s and the film's centrepiece, talks about how the couple survived uncloseted in Hollywood and how Isherwood promoted Bachardy's career as a visual artist and, most important, helped define his entire identity - almost as a father might for a son.
Yet you get the sense that the connection was hugely productive and wholly healthy.
Archival footage of the couple and people they hung out with - Tennessee Williams, Igor Stravinsky, W.H. Auden are just a few examples - give the doc its wow factor. But it's Bachardy who's the soul of the film.
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.