The Sky is falling! No, It’s just the I.Q. of television content.
Gay is no longer chic, it’s legal. Hence I believe artists such as William S Burroughs and Christopher Isherwood had the foresight to identify as ‘homosexual;’ and why this tart of a film should never have been made, or should have been greatly reconsidered. If Isherwood’s extensive literary work are meant to be the canon here, this film is a cheaply produced Spark note.
It’s not so much that anything ‘bad’ was done with the BBC production of ‘Christopher and His Kind’ it’s the fact that very little was good about it – historically and artistically. Like my Dear Grandma Ruby used to say: “Good intentions pave the road to hell”. My first shudder came with the opening credit line ‘Based on…’ followed by narrative reading of Isherwood’s actual work. This is charlatanism at its worst: Geoffrey Sax (producer) and Kevyn Elyot (screenwriter) should pick a team — either make up your own revisionist-history, or dare to follow Fosse and produce a meticulous film. But neither happens here, and I think the producers, Sax and Elyot wanted it that way.
What better than to try to legitimize an otherwise horrendous script with snippets of Isherwood’s genius, so as to avoid artistic scrutiny? Then, top it off with some salacious ‘Will and Grace’ style sex scenes and you’ve got all the illiterati needs to promote yet another piece of Hollywood-wannabe rubbish to self-hating queers and a brain-dead public. Isherwood was the camera — the producers here did not observe.
Matt Smith provides the only slightly redeeming part, in an honest, almost rigorous attempt to capture the eccentricities and nuances of a man who provided the Weimar bible for one of the most notorious periods and cities in contemporary human time. And although Smith’s honest attempt to portray Isherwood is initially engaging, the character becomes dull and repetitive. And the sex scenes were, sigh, included.
Then, there’s the factual problems. First, the Auden character was entirely pompous and unbelievable, and makes me wonder if anyone at the BBC who gorge themselves on TV License pounds actually bothered to read the original texts. Second, while certainly unique, the real George Hamilton was not a campy wayward poof. Third, the real Jean Ross did not run out and buy ‘one of the first copies’ of Isherwood’s work — quite the contrary, according to Isherwood and biographer Peter Parker, Ross was quite unenthusiastic about the entire affair.
From the moral preaching via the Landauer character to the fabricated showdown between Ross, Isherwood and Heinz’ brother — the writers on this film completely threw away almost everything Isherwood took pains to bring forward. I cannot imagine, from the author I have read closely, a Christopher Isherwood who would have lingered around Nazi rallies, or blatantly ran heroically to the aid of Nazi victims. To suggest otherwise is just naively made for television.
The entire production was rushed which undermined any hope of authenticity. A second-rate film exploiting second-class people, how very Hollywood of the BBC. Better study the history instead of constantly trying to rewrite it — it is repeating under our very noses.
footnote: One person suggested I should not be so harsh in this review. Another, a student, wondered if something in place of nothing is better than nothing at all. Answers: I really do not want to be. / No.