This documentary, now out on DVD, was recently shown on cable. We loved seeing Paul Williams -- he is doing well, is gracious and fun.
The director of this documentary, Stephen Kessler, SUCKS. We actually posted a review on IMDB. Let us look for it and post it here.
Our review on IMDB:
Whether realized or not, Paul Williams has had a tremendous musical impact on my generation. Easily the redeeming factor of this film are the juxtapositions of Williams in his heyday and Williams today.
The documentary is populated with gasp-inducing ("I remember that!" "I saw that when it aired!") moments, terrific vintage clips, and good interviews, especially with his long-time band leader.
Williams comes off completely accessible and a very self-aware guy. The tragedy of this entire project is the fact that the person at the film's helm is Stephen Kessler, who is intrusive, obnoxious, paranoid, xenophobic, and, most of all, so self-absorbed that every action Williams makes (a tour of Vegas, to the Philippines, etc.) is about him. Not 30 flippin' seconds go by in this documentary, where Kessler isn't self-referential.
Williams is shockingly gracious despite Kessler's repeated attempts at "gotcha" moments. Kessler is so arrogant that he actually interrupts Williams' poignant childhood memory. He's the kind of "reporter" (term used very loosely) who isn't listening to his subject. Kessler has an agenda, and no matter how many times he refers to Williams as his "idol," that agenda is a despicable one. Kessler's "fame" (Oscar for a short film) wasn't even a blip on the entertainment scene and he is determined to make this film about him.
If only Kessler had used this amazing opportunity to showcase Williams -- who is certainly as interesting and engaging as he'd been at the height of his fame -- this could have been a very remarkable film portrait. It wouldn't even have had to be a tribute; Williams shows moments of curmudgeonly behavior (and really, who wouldn't be, in Kessler's presence), but Williams' humor and undeniable talent deserve a showcase.
Kessler repeatedly (and cringing-ly) keeps asking questions that are the equivalent of "how does it feel to have been so famous and to become so irrelevant?" The truly horrible moment is when Kessler (who clearly has been chomping at the bit, stalking Williams for two years for this opportunity) makes Williams awkwardly and uncomfortably sit through a late 70s-vintage television clip of a clearly high, Williams hosting the "Mike Douglas Show."
Kessler wants to make a film about himself, and frame it with a compelling subject like Williams. For Williams -- who generously consented to Kessler's cameras AND provided him with boxes of videos for the documentary (without these contributions there would be absolutely no film) -- this film provides a reminder of Williams. But he deserves so much better.
Here's the press release for the DVD:
Paul Williams was everywhere in the 1970s - on records, the radio, TV and movies - but he suddenly walked away from it all, and a new generation of pop music lovers has no idea who he is. Director Stephen Kessler sets out to remedy that situation in PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE. Kessler's "fascinating" (Entertainment Weekly) and "endearing" (Paste) film about his journey to find his musical hero will bring the songwriting genius to longtime fans and new listeners alike when it arrives on DVD on February 5, 2013, from Virgil Films. The music-filled documentary has an SRP of $19.99.
Even if you don't know songwriter Paul Williams, you know his timeless classics, such as the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays," Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen," Three Dog Night's "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song" and the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection." Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and David Bowie, among other giants, have recorded his songs. He has won Grammys and an Oscar, made his own hit records, had a busy acting career, including starring in "Smokey and the Bandit" and Brian DePalma's "The Phantom of the Paradise," and made 50 appearances on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."
But where has he been for the last 20 years? Stephen Kessler ("Vegas Vacation") wanted to know, so he set out to find Williams. The result is an exhilarating film about a fan finally meeting his hero and getting him to open up about his career and why he seemed to simply give it all up. The revelations in PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE will stun and move fans, particularly when Williams opens up about his personal struggles and his triumphant return to the music industry as the president of ASCAP.
A wistful musical journey that will reintroduce a new generation to Williams' soulful classics, PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE is the charmingly self-narrated story of what happens when a nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with his hero.
Wrote Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times: "Filmmaker Stephen Kessler's sheer delight in following around his boyhood idol, whose music framed much of the '70s when Kessler was a lad in Queens, is thoroughly infectious."
About Virgil Films - Virgil Films & Entertainment was founded in 2003 by Joe Amodei to acquire, market and distribute DVD, TV and Digital product in the theatrical feature film, documentaries, special interest and sports categories. The company has built partnerships with OWN, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, National Geographic Cinema Ventures, ESPN, MLB Productions, Morgan Spurlock's Warrior Poets and other high-profile entertainment brands since their inception. Recent releases from Virgil Films & Entertainment include the documentary, Miss Representation; Todd Solondz's latest film, Dark Horse, the critically acclaimed documentary, High Ground and the hit documentary Forks Over Knives. They have also successfully released last year's Oscar® nominated documentary Restrepo. www.VirgilFilmsEnt.com
About Brainstorm Media - Founded in 1995, Brainstorm Media develops, produces and distributes films for all media. It is the oldest independent aggregator for VOD and continues to push the threshold in independent distribution. Brainstorm is partnered with DIRECTV on the theatrical documentary series SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT and is rolling out films under the FANGORIA label in February, 2013. Films currently in theatrical release include Addicted to Fame, Big Boys Gone Bananas, Charlie is My Darling and The Girl. Original productions are currently in the works for SyFy Channel, Hallmark Channel, and Lifetime. For more information please consult www.brainmedia.net
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PAUL WILLIAMS: STILL ALIVE
Street date: February 5, 2013
Prebook: January 8, 2013
Running time: 84 minutes