Let it come down – The Life of Paul Bowles

By Jennifer Baichwal


Focus Literature

Born in Jamaica, Paul Bowles (1910-1999), left a successful career as a music composer in the 1940s and moved to Tangiers where he remained for the rest of his life, immersed in its culture and people. He began writing fiction, most famously “The Sheltering Sky”, several striking short stories, and his autobiography “Without Stopping” (1972). Against a backdrop of the North African landscape, the enigma of the iconoclastic writer begins to unravel. Interviews with the reclusive Bowles, who speaks with unprecedented candor about his work and his controversial private life, are intercut with the conflicting views of his detractors and supporters. Highlights include footage of the last meeting of Bowles, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in New York; a detailed treatment of Bowles’ work as a composer and coverage of the 1995 Eos festival of his music at Lincoln Center, for which Bowles made his first trip to New York in 35 years; Bowles giving, for the record, his final opinion of Bertolucci’s 1990 film version of “The Sheltering Sky”; and readings of Bowles’ work by Canadian actor Tom McCamus.

“It’s terrific ... like a Francis Bacon painting. It’s the conversation with Paul Bowles you always wanted to have.” David Cronenberg

When Jennifer Baichwal ran away from university on a journey of self-discovery, she ended up in Tangiers, where she became acquainted with Bowles. Ten years later, Baichwal "awoke from a dream in which Bowles had died. And I thought ‘no one has caught the complexity and subterfuge of this person’". Baichwal decided to film Bowles. "Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles," is Jennifer Baichwal’s first feature documentary, winning a 1999 International Emmy for Best Arts Documentary. It also won Best Biography at Hot Docs in 1999 and was picked up for theatrical release in Canada and the U.S.

Prefilm: "Burroughs Those Days“ by Jennifer Baichwal and editor, Canada, 6 min. Burroughs playing the drums and talking about writing.