Friday, June 10, 2011

Christopher and His Kind

Christopher and His Kind, dir. Geoffrey Sax, 2011 UK, 90 min. 
Sun. 6/26, 7:30p @ Castro, CHRI26C (closing-night gala; $35/$30 film only, $60/$50 film and party)

Christopher Isherwood (Matt Smith, lower right)
and Heinz Neddermayer (Douglas Booth)
Gay literary icon Christopher Isherwood, at the urging of his friend, poet W. H. Auden, lived in Berlin from 1929 to 1933, as the 1920’s gay liberation scene in Berlin was fading and Adolph Hitler’s “national socialism” was on the rise. That period of Isherwood’s life inspired several works, including the Broadway musical and film Cabaret. Christopher and His Kind is a more direct adaptation of Isherwood's memoirs in a biopic style, starring Matt Smith (the current Doctor Who!). Isherwood moved to Berlin “because of the boys,” but became especially fond of one in particular, Heinz Neddermayer (Douglas Booth). He also met the people who begat some of his more famous characters, including “Sally Bowles” (Jean Ross, played by Imogen Poots) and “Mr. Norris,” (Gerald Hamilton, played by Toby Jones) both of whom we meet in the film. 
The subject matter could hardly be more compelling: a gay novelist living in Berlin, just as the rise of the Nazis is crushing (among many other things) the gay rights activism of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld and others. Isherwood explored the clubs and sampled many of the rent boys, but also had many less licentious adventures — some pleasant and droll, and others decidedly less so. Christopher and His Kind ranges over the full terrain, giving us a well-rounded portrait. Matt Smith is in fine form as the main character — “Issyvoo,” as his landlady calls him — but the entire cast is superb. Definitely a “must-see”!

If you simply must get your paws on the DVD as soon as it hits the streets, you’re in luck: there’s an ad in the back of the Frameline festival guide, offering it on pre-order for release on 2011-06-28. But do try to make it to the screening as well, because Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s lover for the last 30 years of his life, is expected to make an appearance. If you saw the documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story at Frameline32, you know Bachardy is quite a character in his own right.

Keywords: Frameline35, LGBT Film

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