Paul Williams: Still Alive

Paul Williams:  Still AliveDirector Stephen Kessler’s 5+ year labour of love made its debut Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The documentary has undergone a minor name change from “Won’t Last a Day” to its current title, whose double meaning is significant.  Assuming his childhood idol’s absence from the airwaves suggests the worst, Kessler is shocked to discover that not only is his subject very much alive, he’s about to perform at a Phantom of the Paradise festival, of all things, in Winnipeg, of all places!

This is a deeply moving film that provides a “warts and all” overview of the ups and downs of Paul Williams’s career.  It is an emotional roller coaster ride that is often difficult to watch; lord knows how Paul sat through it at the premiere.  On the other hand some of the most disturbing material comes from Paul’s own home movies as he tries his best to be a normal father – just one who also happens to be battling multiple addictions.  That Paul was able to share this footage suggests that this has been as cathartic an exercise for him as it was for the director.

At the raucous after-party the mood was one of relief and celebration, and saw Paul Williams sign many Phantom of the Paradise LP and CD covers and perform a short set that included a ramshackle sing-a-long of The Love Boat theme.  (When he asked for requests there was an instant, spontaneous cry of “Faust!” from the youngsters crowding the stage.)

Congratulations to director Stephen Kessler and producer Lesa Lakin.  We hope to bring this full circle for a Winnipeg premiere, where the project began.

My full review is here.

Paul Williams, on stage. from Torontoist on Vimeo.

 

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