High on my Souvenir Series

"In 1960 I began to experiment with the idea of constructing stories whose subject matter would consist of disparate elements and unrelated characters taken directly from life and fitted together as in a mosaic." That's Paul Bowles, in the preface to his collection of 1962 short stories, A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard, which Anne Galloway heaped praised on recently. [Anne also posts Bowles' complete preface.]

Bowles' stories were intended as bridges or intersections between the "two worlds" spoken of by Moroccan kif smokers: the world of "natural laws" and the kif world, which each kifhead perceives "according to the projections of his own essence." To a nascent filmmaker, reading "projections of his own essence" is like a gateway drug for the rest of Bowles' ideas. Now I ever smoked kif--never had kif brownies, even--but I think I get what Bowles is saying here, man.

As we rushed to edit my first short, Souvenir November 2001, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog became an inspiration for a series of shorts exploring some aspect of memory. I'd need some thematic connection or other--Ten Commandments? Opera? Rooms in a hotel? All about Glenn Gould? Each one's 11:09 plus one frame long? Opera? Use the LumiËre's original camera?--right? As the title of my second short suggests, I'm settling on months. Does that mean there'll be twelve? In addition to the two, I've got six written or outlined. We'll see if the conceit holds up.

For some of the compilations above "uneven" is the best thing that can be said about them. For a one-director project (that's not Animatrix), it may not have to. Slacker's apparently random daisy chain reads as a Richard Linklater monologue (or the voices in his head). And Jill Sprecher's excellent Thirteen Conversations About One Thing shows a mosaic of stories can be successfully, er, interwoven.

In any case, though, Bowles' kifworld experiment sounds most like the serendipitously revelatory approach I've been not quite able to articulate. So now I'm bogarting a hundred camels for my wannabe Chekhovian slices-of-life film? I must be high.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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first published: July 23, 2003.

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