Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paul Williams: Still Alive

(Guest Review by Robert Dayton) I recently had the opportunity to see the documentary “Paul Williams: Still Alive” at the Toronto International Film Festival. This documentary came about because director Stephen Kessler was a massive fan and didn’t know that he was still alive! I am normally wary of docs that feature the director as a character, but this works, it really makes this documentary all the more human. There is great levity from both sides as Kessler struggles to convince Paul Williams to be the subject of his documentary (and eventually succeeds, of course). Williams is wary as he doesn’t want another ego trip. This doc explores how his personality has shifted these past twenty years and has a great many things to say about ego, being different and wanting to feel special, addiction, being an entertainer, living in the now, and that happy endings are possible. It’s also very funny, a favourite moment is when Kessler is terrified to accompany Paul Williams to his shows in the Phillippines but knows that it is integral to his doc. Archival footage, while not dotty and pristine, is used to appropriate effect, especially at the emotional climax.

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