Uptown at the Walter Reade Theater on Thursday night, the vibe was decidedly downtown. The occasion: the New York Film Festival screening of director Sara Driver's film of a Paul Bowles short story, You Are Not I.
Made in the early 1980's, a guerrilla effort of Bowery creative types including Jim Jarmusch, Nan Goldin, Luc Sante, Tom DiCillo, Phil Kline, and others, the black & white film was thought lost until recently when a print was found in Bowles's apartment in Tangier, Morocco and then taken to his driver Abdelouhaid Boulaich's house and stored in a windowless room amidst a scattering of letters from Gore Vidal and William Burroughs, and a mysterious white powder thought to be insecticide. Driver had forgotten she had sent Bowles the print, and somehow through a series of mishaps other copies had been destroyed.
Discovered by the University of Delaware Library team of Francis Poole and Tim Murray, and restored with the help of Susan Lazarus with an award from New York Women in Film and Television, the film of You Are Not I holds up as a brilliant evocation of this writer's unique sensibility. Even fans of Bernardo Bertolucci's take on Bowles' novel, The Sheltering Sky, deem this miraculous find to be the best film yet of a Bowles work. Fascinated too by the writing of Paul's wife, Sara Driver is developing a film of Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies.
In this centennial year for Paul Bowles, an anthology of his superb travel essays has been published in an American edition, Travels: Collected Writings 1950-1993 (Ecco).
Celebrating with Sara Driver and some of the original cast and crew were Steve Buscemi, Betty Gordon, Abel Ferrara, Willem Dafoe, and Shanyn Leigh. Suzanne Fletcher, the film's "Ethel," flew in from LA where she is currently working in "underground" theater. Now platinum haired she said, "Of course I had to be here. This is the New York Film Festival."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.