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Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles


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$19.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Cherifa, Mohammed Choukri, Allen Ginsberg
  • Directors: Jennifer Baichwal
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: September 2, 2003
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000AOV7F
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,366 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

One of the most enigmatic artists of the 20th century, writer, composer and wanderer Paul Bowles (1910-1999) is profiled by a filmmaker who has been obsessed with his genius since age nineteen. Set against the dramatic landscape of North Africa, the mystery of Bowles (famed author of The Sheltering Sky) begins to unravel in Jennifer Baichwal's poetic and moving Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles. Rare, candid interviews with the reclusive Bowles--at home in Tangier, as well as in New York during an extraordinary final reunion with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs--are intercut with conflicting views of his supporters and detractors. At the time in his mid-eighties, Bowles speaks with unprecedented candor about his work, his controversial private life and his relationships with Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, the Beats, and his wife and fellow author Jane Bowles.


DVD Special Features
- Additional interview footage with Paul Bowles discussing modernism, Moby Dick, love, children and Gertrude Stein
- Outtakes of Bowles' final meeting with William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg in 1995
- An essay by director Jennifer Baichwal

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Clark on October 31, 2003
Format: DVD
Filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal's Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles (1998), winner of the International Emmy Award for Best Documentary, explores the life and works of one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century: composer, author, translator, expatriate, and iconoclast Paul Bowles (1910-1999).
Against the backdrop of exotic North Africa, the enigma of Bowles begins to unravel in this imaginatively-made film. Interviews with the reclusive Bowles, who speaks with a mixture of candor and secrecy, about his work and controversial private life, are intercut with the conflicting views of his critics and supporters. Highlights of the film include exclusive footage of the last meeting of Bowles, William Burroughs (Naked Lunch) and Allen Ginsberg (Howl) in New York in 1995; a scene of Bowles translating Moroccan storyteller Mohammed Mrabet; the first and only film appearance of his wife Jane's lover Cherifa, who is rumored to have poisoned her to death; a look at Bowles's work as a composer; and readings of his mysterious and poetic work accompanied by striking, and apt, visuals.
Bowles was the quintessential iconoclast. He left the United States in the 1940s after building a career as an important modern composer, to immerse himself in the culture of North Africa. A writer's writer, his associations span the elite cultural circles of the last century. At twenty, he was an intimate of Gertrude Stein and Aaron Copland; at thirty the peer of Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal; at forty, literary godfather to Beat writers Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. (All of those artists were gay, lesbian, or bi, although the film identifies only a few as such.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gary Swafford on September 28, 2009
Format: DVD
If you enjoy the works of legendary writer Paul Bowles, you will like this interesting documentary, Let It Come Down. Filmed a few years before Bowles died the filmakers do a superb job of covering the highlights of his life and work. There is a very good overview of his biography, with Bowles answering key questions and sharing numerous anecdotes about many of the important people in his life: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, William Burroughs (along with a marvelous reunion with Burroughs shot during a brief, late life return to New York), Allen Ginsburg, Tennessee Williams, etc. He also speaks movingly of his relationship with his troubled wife Jane Bowles and their complicated relationship while maintaining a modicum of privacy.

A powerful feature to this documentary is how the filmakers ask the right, penetrating questions. You want Bowles quizzed about his expatriatism, his writing, his beliefs, his relationships. The frequently smiling Bowles was always his best and most interesting subject and is tremendously patient and a good sport in his expansive answers while not giving away the kitchen sink. I especially enjoyed hearing him talk about Melville's "Moby Dick," his disappointment with Bernardo Bertulucci's film adaptation of "The Sheltering Sky," and the evolution of his musical career, his views on God and the notions of love.

Overall this is a fine, even powerful documentary. One good-natured criticism is that it is too short. I would have enjoyed at least another half hour. My not so happy observation, and a strong caviat for viewers is the opening shot of what is apparently a goat or ram's head being eviscerated before our eyes during the credits....this is a shocking and revolting sight. And to what end? Perhaps a veiled reference to Bowles' existentialism? I almost didn't watch the film after this wholly disgusting and unnecessary opening.

So, five stars. Deserved. But skip the opening!
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Format: DVD
"Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles" was the first feature documentary by Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal. It is an amateurish and low-budget production that doesn't begin to approach the quality of Baichwal's later work. But this film was made 1994-1998 and became a sort of elegy to its subjects, especially to American expatriate writer Paul Bowles, who died in 1999. Baichwal was a fan of Bowles' writing in her youth and became personally acquainted with him in the 1980s. Here, she tries to capture some of the motivation behind Bowles' life and work through interviews with Bowles and those who knew him, including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and the Hon. David Herbert, all deceased before the film was completed.

"Let It Come Down" takes a scattershot approach to Paul Bowles' life, and the interviews with him are reminiscent of many others that I've read. Bowles talks about his New England childhood, his youthful sojourn in Paris with Gertrude Stein, his career as a composer, his marriage to Jane, his delight in always being the "foreigner" among people unlike himself, international rule in Tangier after the War, and his writing, among other topics. We don't see Bowles' darker side or how selfish and cruel he could be. Like many of his admirers -and I consider myself a fan- Baichwal focuses on the exotic and mythic aspects of his life and character. This is not a probing or complete portrait of the man, but a film for his fans that reinforces the enigmatic expatriate persona that they conferred him.

Paul Bowles was 87 when he was interviewed for this film, and one difficulty in making a documentary about an elderly person is that nearly everyone who knew him in his productive years is dead.
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