Paul Bowles in Tangier

Paul Bowles Documentary: ‘Let it Come Down’


Expatriate writer, composer, and traveler Paul Bowles (1910-1999) stepped away from it all and reported back to us through his novels and short stories. He lived 52 years in Tangier, Morocco, and wrote evocatively of the place and its peoples. He is most famous for the influential 1949 novel, The Sheltering Sky, filmed by Bernardo Bertolucci. His life is told through a cinema verite documentary ‘Let it Come Down’.

Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles

Hiding Out in the Middle of It All – Paul Bowles Life in Morocco

This documentary throws it down to assess the life of the often-obtuse expatriate writer Paul Bowles. It includes archival “home movie” footage, as well as interviews with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and other “Beat Generation” writers who knew Bowles and his wife Jane during his 52 years in Morocco. We see a man who is in his late years, but who has made a semblance of peace with himself and his past. He discusses his philosophy on writing (he basically doesn’t have one), his life with Jane, his homosexuality, and his complex relationship with his adopted country. This film does not earn a higher rating, because it teases more than it tells…probably due to the difficulty of getting information from Bowles. It will make you want to read his autobiography and all his other literary works, if you haven’t already done so.

Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (1998) – full documentary
Directed by Jennifer Baichwal
1999 (Canada)
cast: Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg

For a more definitive view of Paul Bowles’ life and work, see this post featuring an interview with author Jay McInerney and multiple other videos.

On his way through the borderlines of consciousness, he had a fantasy. From the mountain behind the farm, running silently over the icy crust of the snow, leaping over the rocks and bushes, came a wolf. He was running toward the farm. When he got there, he would look through the windows until he found the dining room where the grownups were sitting around the big table. Donald shuddered when he saw his eyes in the dark of the glass. And now, calculating every movement perfectly, the wolf sprang, smashing the panes, and seized Donald’s father by the throat. In an instant, before anyone could move or cry out, he was gone again with his prey still between his jaws. His head turned sideways as he dragged the limp form swiftly over the surface of the snow.  — Paul Bowles

Via UbuWeb

Paul Bowles in Tangier
Paul Bowles, photo by Allen Ginsberg.

Updated 17 March 2023

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