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Based on 19 Critics
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  • January 20, 2009 moyuraxmi49
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    On February 14, 1953, Don Bachardy (18) meets his brother's lover Christopher Isherwood (48) on a beach in California and, unbeknownst to both parties, are locked in for life - a life that would enlarge into creative soars for a portrait artist yet to know his calling and an established author awaiting his eternal subject. Yet the film is not about two symbiotic muses, feeding off each other to produce art, but rather art as an imperfect yet capacious tomb where time may pause, souls embalmed and longings stilled. The documentary, much like its own subjects, is the act of reinforcing memory with creative proofs, which, in the process of their making, inspire more memories than any paper/celluloid can hold. A sketch of a gnarled Chris, haggard in his cancerous boniness, opens the smell of the author, the smell of the ink-then in the ink-now, and the taste of that morning in this morning. It is a story of an artist drawing an author and an author writing his muse into immortality, pari passu. Amid this Edenic coalescence breathes the quiet defiance of a ritual-weary, mid-aged Chris Isherwood against prescribed and age-aware heteronormativity. And Humbert Humbertish it all was in many ways as brutally young, sun-sinewed Don, calling himself "an unconscious impersonator," star-struckly serves as Chris’ substrate, replicating his accent, his Cheshire mannerism and sparse diction. Eclipsed by Chris’ superluminosity, Don confesses, "I wanted people to like me for who I really was but I wasn’t sure myself who I was. The only thing I knew that I was good at was drawing people.." And draw he did and with it came the urge to break free from the only lover he had known. Chris' enabling of Don's art pushes the latter to gauge and outrun the cost of unequal sexual experience with his seasoned, three-decade-distant partner. All Chris wants is for Don to come home at the end of the day after his shenanigans. Which he does in the late 60s. (Sometimes.) Don eventually comes back for good to draw Chris, and Chris only, in the last few days of his life, chronicling the coming of his death piecemeal in a preemptively elegiac set of sketches. Isherwood bares his all, his full, bleak nakedness in sacred singularity with his scribe. For Don's furious fingers, each tender stroke is prayer for bonus time. Chris dies; Don spends the day drawing his corpse lest memory alone betray. There is everything lyrical about these last soul-jolting images of depleted youth, the shameful, stark shriveling of the body, the lovely grotesqueness that only death can do. Santi and Mascara cast them against Don's feverish workouts at the gym and close the story with the lithe-withered artist in his solitary atelier where all that is left are drawers of pictures and shelves of books in poetic time-still, all the company a man has shored for a night to allay "the foul rag and boneshop of the heart." Sabrina Sadique Cambridge, MA

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