Christopher Isherwood met Don Bachardy on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1953. Isherwood, the celebrated author of "Goodbye to Berlin," was 49, a rebellious upper-class Brit, world traveler and running partner of W. H. Auden. Bachardy was 18, a star-struck southern California boy with a beautiful gap-toothed smile. It was the beginning of a remarkable relationship that would last until Isherwood's death in 1986, a relationship explored in Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's intimate, moving and playful "Chris & Don: A Love Story."
The 30-year age difference seemed to bother everybody but the lovers themselves. Not that it was easy for Bachardy, thrust into the world of Igor Stravinsky, Aldous Huxley, E. M. Forster and Tennessee Williams (glimpsed in marvelous home movies), who dismissed him as a pretty appendage to the novelist. Bachardy, now in his 70s and a major portrait artist, is the film's presiding spirit, a witty raconteur who guides us through their extraordinary story—he's even acquired Isherwood's accent and mannerisms. We hear Isherwood's side, too, through his diaries (read by Michael York). Using old footage, interviews with friends and colleagues, animation and artful, unobtrusive re-creations, the filmmakers conjure up a heady, lovely portrait of an abiding, though sometimes rocky, love affair. As Isherwood's death approached, Bachardy sat by his side, drawing remarkable portraits of his mentor, lover and best friend. Then he spent a day drawing his corpse, knowing that Isherwood would have told him, "That's what an artist would do." Bachardy composes himself and says, "And that's what an artist did do."