Paul Bowles: The Cage Door is Always Open

DIRECTOR: Daniel Young

Author and composer Paul Bowles is often unjustifiably overlooked in accounts of what has, perhaps inaccurately, come to be known as The Beat Generation. He fled a tumultuous childhood in New York for Paris (and the attentions of literary doyenne Gertrude Stein), at a young age, but it wasn’t until Bowles met his lesbian life-partner and wife, Jane Auer, and witnessed the publication of her book Two Serious Ladies that Bowles’s novelistic ambitions were rekindled and he wrote The Sheltering Sky, the wildly successful book that inspired The Beats and made possible the couple’s move to Tangiers. On separate floors of a luxe apartment building, the two maintained their respective boy and girl “gangs” separately, but remained inseparable, living as expatriates for the rest of their lives.

Ever the willing outsider, Bowles published vast volumes in translation, many dictated to him by local storytellers, often setting to ink the first records of Morocco’s oral tradition. The couple’s residence became as an informal salon, entertaining countless literary guests drawn by the couple’s literary celebrity and the desert’s raw, exotic appeal. Daniel Young’s film, much of which was filmed on one such a visit, illuminates Bowles’ singular path in the words of the artist himself, peppered with stunning animated sequences and often set to Bowles’s own entrancing piano sonatas. On screen, Bowles is joined by a cadre of reverent celebrity friends and fellow travelers, including Gore Vidal, Bernardo Bertolucci, John Waters, and Mohammed Mrabet.

— JACKSON SCARLETT

AT&T Audience Award Text Voting Code: D329

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