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Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider1993

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  • 4.1
Filmed in Morocco and featuring exclusive interviews with cultural icons such as Allen Ginsberg, PAUL BOWLES: THE COMPLETE OUTSIDER explores the esoteric life of the man who wrote the The Sheltering Sky, one of the most provocative and influential novels of the 20th century. As an icon to the Beat Generation, Bowles’ writing and life has influenced everyone from William Burroughs (whose Naked Lunch was inspired by Bowles), to David Cronenberg’s film of the same name, to Bernardo Bertolucci, whose film adaptation of The Sheltering Sky was a critical and popular hit. Bowles led an enigmatic existence on the outskirts of accepted moral behavior in harsh but beautiful Morocco. Despite being married (to fellow author Jane Bowles), Bowles and his wife had numerous homosexual affairs. The film explores not only his development as a writer and composer, but also his complicated personal life.

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3 members like this review

While The "Bowles" documentary (which it really is...) has its share of misses - over all I've rated it 4 STARS. Yes, it's positives outweigh its negs; primarily because it fills such an important part of terribly important literary & social history. Its remarkable conversations/interviews with Bowles - in his own environs, with his marvelous recollections of time spent with all the giants of his genre, are great. But, sprinkling it, as they do, with comments from some of those same people, really tops it off nicely. Admittedly I'm prejudice - I've always liked Bowles and have collected & been a fan of Burroughs, Stein, Ginsberg, et al for my entire (literary) life (Now over 50 years). The interviews with and/or comments by - or about Ginsberg, et al, are particularly revealing & entertaining... Comments about his long marriage to Jane & their relations - with each other and others, were particularly frank & informative. If, like me, you have any interest in the era, any of these authors - or even the environs, you should find the film worthwhile and might even - like me, enjoy much of it! On the other hand, if you have no idea who Bowles or these other people are or have no particular interest in the period or genre, you will likely miss the point (of the undertaking) all together and certainly not agree with my 4 STARS. It (The rating) is obviously applicable only with the aforementioned proviso!

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (11)

34852f58164faa492135ea002958f851?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2ffemale%2favatar f 0032
top reviewer

While The "Bowles" documentary (which it really is...) has its share of misses - over all I've rated it 4 STARS. Yes, it's positives outweigh its negs; primarily because it fills such an important part of terribly important literary & social history. Its remarkable conversations/interviews with Bowles - in his own environs, with his marvelous recollections of time spent with all the giants of his genre, are great. But, sprinkling it, as they do, with comments from some of those same people, really tops it off nicely. Admittedly I'm prejudice - I've always liked Bowles and have collected & been a fan of Burroughs, Stein, Ginsberg, et al for my entire (literary) life (Now over 50 years). The interviews with and/or comments by - or about Ginsberg, et al, are particularly revealing & entertaining... Comments about his long marriage to Jane & their relations - with each other and others, were particularly frank & informative. If, like me, you have any interest in the era, any of these authors - or even the environs, you should find the film worthwhile and might even - like me, enjoy much of it! On the other hand, if you have no idea who Bowles or these other people are or have no particular interest in the period or genre, you will likely miss the point (of the undertaking) all together and certainly not agree with my 4 STARS. It (The rating) is obviously applicable only with the aforementioned proviso!

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

It's worth watching if you're into the gay writers of the 40s through 60s. Bowles himself is a remarkably unsympathetic character, but the Zeitgeist is interesting. It's always good to remember that there were people very different from the normative culture living free lives, especially in the middle and upper class gay bohemia/intelligentsia, long before the dominant culture was able to identify them.

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top reviewer

Fine film. Interesting man, wife, his boyfriends, her girlfriends, they were intellectually bound together; what a bunch of friends and travelers. Didn't not know much about him; I have ordered two of his books after watching this film. I wonder where the "Tangier" artist's colony of 2015 is...

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top reviewer

My interest in Paul Bowles comes from reading "The Sheltering Sky" years ago and still being haunted by it. Picking up the Complete Stories years later has reintroduced me to a writer who really is unappreciated and under-read. He has a haunting beauty in his works that this documentary hints upon but does to expose completely. There are hints and pieces that say, "You should probably read his books," but it's not a strong voice. Instead the focus is on Bowles and his life in Morocco, his marriage, and his humor. Through his own voice and film footage, you get a sense of a guy that was not only an important writer, but someone who you would want to hang around, someone who is smart and funny, and someone who really did not take himself too seriously. These are the types of artists that make for good documentary subjects and good heroes. "Paul Bowles: A Complete Outsider" is enough to start interest in him as an artist for those unfamiliar with his work, and enough to reignite the interest on someone who might have read him long ago. Overall worth the time.

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top reviewer

Interesting. Makes me want to read more of Paul Bowles' work and the biographies of Paul and his wife Jane. I wonder if there is a dual biography about them and their relationship. This may be as close as I ever get. The last line bothered me. It would take a famous, well-off, well regarded writer to advise others to not write at all. Isn't that the same thing his father said when he was young? And didn't he run away to Paris...to write?

Nice documentary but some of the comments are full of exotism towards Moroccan culture and can be annoying at times.

Paul Bowles was an expatriot American writer/composer who left the suffocating conformity of WW2 America for the Paris salons of Gertrude Stein and the hashish fuelled gay scene in Tangiers. Bowles was a perfectly cultured and sophisticated gentleman with very wild tastes. Unlike his good friend William Burroughs, Bowles was the sort of guy your mother would have liked. A brilliant writer and a very civilized human being. He would be on my list of people I'd have a beer with.

Having read much of Bowles work it was interesting to hear him discuss his writing philosophy and talk about his life.

Wonderful. A self-confessed misanthrope turns out to be charming and funny with lots of interesting friends. An American type (though a very rare bird) and a complex individual beautifully captured.

fantastic.