Film Highlight: Queer Takes

Chris & Don: A Love Story, directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara, 2007
courtesy of the Walker Art Center

The Walker launches its third program of films centered on GLBT themes. Among the highlights of the five-day series is Tina Mascara and Guido Santi's Chris & Don: A Love Story (Saturday at 3 p.m.), a charming, illuminating portrait of the complex and storied queer romance between literary icon Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy. Their three-decade-long relationship began when they met on a Santa Monica beach in 1952, when Bachardy was a teenager and Isherwood 30 years his senior. Quilted from black-and-white home-movie clips, animated sequences that bring to life the couple's correspondence and pet names, and original footage of the now-elderly Bachardy going about his daily routine, Chris & Don uses standard documentary-film techniques to celebrate three entities—Isherwood, Bachardy, and their relationship—that flaunted all the rules. There was an extraordinary vulnerability in their union, matched only by an extraordinary faith in their bond. The relationship contained elements of the parent-child hierarchy (with the roles flip-flopping back and forth over time), but it was also an erotic quest that expanded to include other lovers—especially as Bachardy matured into his own man—then retreated back to monogamy again (at least emotionally). As Bachardy grew into his own creativity, theirs became a conversation between artists, too. Gays and straights can glean some lessons from Isherwood and Bachardy's example: Make your own rules, set your own terms for connection, and be willing to let them evolve, even as you and your partner (hopefully) do.

Among the other films in the "Queer Takes" lineup: Freeheld, an Oscar-winning short documentary about a New Jersey policewoman dying of cancer and fighting to have her life partner receive her pension (Thursday at 7 p.m.); On the Downlow, a surprising documentary on men who identify as straight males but frequently have sex with other men (Thursday at 8 p.m.); and Vivere, a moody film about three European women whose lives intersect in stories of guilt, pregnancy, and lesbian longing (Friday at 9 p.m.). Visit for more information.

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