Nowhere in this fine, quiet, richly-sourced documentary is the phrase "gay marriage" ever uttered. But then, the relationship at hand spanned three pre-political decades until 1986, when expat English writer Christopher Isherwood (The Berlin Stories) died in L.A. Today, in the same gloriously sunny, cozy Santa Monica cottage they shared, his surviving partner Don Bachardy, a portrait artist, leafs through dozens of often nude sketches made during Isherwood's last days—and even after his death. It seems perfectly natural, and the film includes even more dazzling visual records—photos and color home movies from Venice in the '50s and of mingling with the stars back home (including Igor Stravinsky, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Aldous Huxley, David Hockney, and John Boorman). And in a nice nod to Cabaret, which made Isherwood's fortune, Michael York reads from the author's letters and diaries. Chris and Don met at ages 49 and 18, respectively, on the beach, where Don and his older brother (also gay) were trolling for sugar daddies. Was that so wrong? Their relationship—and this movie—prove otherwise. Boorman comments, "Isherwood had succeeded in cloning himself." To which Bachardy, speaking in the third person, agrees: "It was exactly what the young boy wanted."
Isherwood (left) and Bachardy in their 70s glory.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., Aug. 1–Thurs., Aug. 7. Not rated. 90 minutes.