Monday, December 14, 2009

The Return of Christopher Isherwood, Part 3: Coming Soon, "A Single Man"

This is the last in a series of three articles I had planned about the remarkable life and work of author Christopher Isherwood, and how he is having an impact on our culture even now.  With the release of the new film version of Isherwood's 1964 novel "A Single Man", this artist has once again moved into the forefront of influential writers.  I appreciate my readers for following me in this appreciation of an artist whose work has been personally important to me. 

Over the holiday season, I plan to read the novel, and will certainly view--and review here--the film, just as soon as it is released in Chicago. Some of you lucky few may have already had the opportunity to see the film.

As if it were planned to dovetail with my journal here, NPR's Fresh Air today broadcast an insightful and touching interview with Tom Ford, fashion designer and former creative director for Gucci and Yves St. Laurent, who has directed this, his first film. (You can read a transcript of the interview here, or listen to it here. ) Terry Gross had a nice rapport with Ford, an articulate and pleasantly intelligent man, who today spoke from the  heart, relating the personal challenges he had in getting the film made, his self-doubts, and his encouragement from none other than Don Bachardy, Isherwood's long-time partner.

I would like to print that excerpt from the interview, a fitting end to my Isherwood series.  There was a wonderful longing in this anecdote, a lovely mention of the documentary "Chris and Don: A Love Story", (reviewed in this journal Dec. 12), and a touching demonstration of support and acceptance thereof between Bachardy and Ford.  In Mr. Bachardy's honor, and those who listened to and loved this interview as much as I did, I am going to acquire my own pair of lucky red socks.

"GROSS: Your movie "A Single Man" is based on Christopher Isherwood's novel of the same name, and Isherwood for many years was, for decades, was lovers with a man named Don Bacardi, who was 30 years younger than Isherwood. And Bacardi is still alive, and a documentary about their relationship was made within, I don't know, the past year or two called "Chris and Don." So did you talk to Don Bacardi about Christopher Isherwood, about Isherwood's life? Did he offer anything that helped you get into the novel or into Isherwood's mind in a way that was helpful to the movie; or did he even, like, give you objects of Isherwood's that you could use on the set to bring some of Isherwood to the movie in a very physical way?

Mr. FORD: Oh, absolutely. Don was an incredible help in so many ways. Actually, when you mentioned bringing objects, Don has a small cameo in the film, and he's wearing Chris' red socks. Chris always wore red socks, and so he wore a pair of Chris' socks as good luck for his cameo appearance in the film.

But Don was incredibly helpful. I asked him about the book, about that moment in their life. And as I understand it, and I'd have to - you know, Don could give us the details - but the book was written at a time when Christopher felt that Don might leave him. And they split up temporarily, and Christopher was devastated and imagined his life without Don and imagined his life as a single man.

You know, and Don was there for me to talk to, you know, at many different points throughout the process. In fact, he was his most helpful, I think, when I was really struggling, trying to stay quite literal and true to the novel because I loved it so much.

And I was having dinner with Don in Santa Monica. And I don't know that he really knew how much I was struggling. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to be able to turn this novel into a film. And he said to me out of the blue: Make it your own. And, you know, make it your own. The novel is the novel. Make this film your own.

And it gave me the license, I suppose, to really look at the novel and adapt it in a way that was different than the novel but I hope was very true to the intention.

So Don was there in so many, so many ways, and I think it's - well, I know he loves the film and is very, very happy. "

Tom Ford


  1. This sounds like it will be an interesting film, and no doubt an acclaimed first directorial effort for Ford. I look forward to your reviews on the book and the film. Great post, Tom!

  2. Tom, not sure when this film will be released here, hopefully by New Year's Day. I intend to read the book in the's a poretty fast read, I hear...

  3. I'm so prepared to overrate this. I read the book over the summer to prepare myself. Having read the book, I'm baffled by that book cover above. (The copy I had was from a very early printing.) Imagine getting to the skinny-dipping scene of that book with the expectation they're going surfing.