Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles | Chicago Reader

Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles

This 1998 documentary about Paul Bowles relies heavily upon the expatriate writer's own reminiscences, filmed during the mid-90s. Dapper but frail, his voice languid but monotone, the octogenarian Bowles speaks of his repressed childhood, Paris in the 20s, and his friends and lovers, coming across as a WASP rationalist who once drew succor from the sensual Moroccan landscape and the interior world of his fiction. Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal seems too awestruck to pose tough questions; instead she lets commentators such as William S. Burroughs point out Bowles's hedonism and the sexual reticence of his writing. She also focuses too much on the celebrity of the beats (going so far as to arrange a cranky last meeting between Bowles, Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg) and on novelist Jane Bowles, whose marriage of convenience to Paul ended when she was allegedly poisoned by her lesbian lover. Yet the film deftly illustrates evocative passages from Bowles's stories with newsreel footage and images of the North African desert, set to snippets of his Poulenc-esque music.

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