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Plot:

A documentary about legendary songwriter and 70’s icon Paul Williams.::Anonymous

Also Known As: O Paul Williams zei akoma, Пол Уильямс все ещё жив, Paul Williams Still Alive

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  • varga-gal-david
    varga gal david

    This film is a must-see for anyone who grew up in the 1970s, back when you couldn’t watch TV without coming into contact with Paul Williams. You’ll be transported back to the days when you sat on the shag carpeting in front of your family’s console television, close enough to reach out and turn the knob to change channels. And the soundtrack will conjure up memories of riding in the back seat of your best friend’s parents’ station wagon, listening to Casey Kasem counting down the Top 40.Archival footage of Williams skydiving in an episode of “Circus of the Stars” is inserted at three different points in the film, each time conveying a different mood, coinciding with the stages of his life. Williams describes the feeling of going from A-list celebrity at the top of the world, to depressed, isolated drug addict, to sober husband and father who finally has control of both his career and his self-esteem.Director Stephen Kessler lives out the fantasy of finding your childhood idol, getting to follow him around, and becoming close friends. Don’t try this yourself, because you’ll probably be arrested for stalking. Just enjoy the hilarious relationship that develops between these two men and the inspiring story they have to tell.

  • andress-purins
    andress purins

    My fondest memories of Paul Williams are from his guest appearances on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” I don’t remember him so much as my parents enjoying him as a performer and a personality. Director Stephen Kessler brilliantly answers a question that has crossed most everyone’s mind at least once in the last two decades of pop culture… “Whatever happened to that guy, you know the one on all those talk shows, who wrote all those famous songs?” Kessler sets up the answer you’ve been looking for with a beautiful montage of clips in the beginning which he explores in genius detail throughout the documentary. It’s a story of great success served with a giant cup of self defeat thanks to the songwriter’s dive into substance abuse oblivion. It’s the kind of trip Hollywood hates to love, only because of the self reflection! But the schadenfreude is defeated by Williams journey into sobriety as he graciously exits stage left. Kessler captures the kind of moments rarely seen with such honesty, like watching Williams walking through a hotel kitchen waiting to take center stage in front of a crowd of die-hard fans. A far cry from the colorful curtains of the Tonight Show. This is a must-see documentary not just because of what Paul Williams has contributed as a songwriter, but because filmmaker and subject reveal an honesty about the process that is rarely seen in bio-pics about musicians. This documentary scores huge points for running down the “Where Are They Now VH-1” rabbit hole. Instead it makes a soulful connection between filmmaker, celebrity and fan… Oscar should be so worthy.

  • gonzalo-victor-manuel-pi-flor
    gonzalo victor manuel pi flor

    I enjoyed this doc. when I just saw it on Showtime, but I was amazed that it never pointed out that Paul Williams did not write the music for most of his best and most famous songs (other than that POS “Just An Old Fashioned Love Song”). The music was written by great songwriters like Roger Nichols (all the Carpenters hits) and Kenny Ascher (“Rainbow Connection”, “You and Me Against the World”)and even the singer/songwriter Biff Rose. Williams only wrote the lyrics. The songs that Williams wrote alone were mediocre, and maybe this was why his career hit the skids after he stopped working with Nichols and the others. Even “Evergreen” was written by Barbra Streisand, with Williams only supplying the lyrics. I have to admit that I was also under the impression that Paul Williams was this great songwriter who had written some great pop tunes, but I was astonished to find that he had musicians that wrote all the music, and he seemed to take all the credit for all the hits, when he only supplied the lyrics, which were fine, but a song is a lot more than just lyrics. The only mention of Roger Nichols in the film was when Williams briefly said,”When Nichols and I were working together back in etc…” and that’s it. If you look at his career after his collaborations, can you find any good songs he wrote on his own, other than the horrible, “Just An Old Fashioned Love Song”? For the documentarian to overlook this aspect of Williams’ career is pretty sad…

  • amiran-c-ec-xlaze
    amiran c ec xlaze

    I saw this last night at about 3:00 AM. As a songwriter, as a Carpenters fan, you’ll see the self destruction the drug use and ultimately the salvation of one the most poignant songwriters of the 1970’s. I was one of the many that thought Paul Williams was actually dead. To see him moving on in life… Still writing, performing, and honored… It gives one hope that in the end, if one stays true to themselves, their craft and the people that they love, it’ll all work out in the end.There’s a couple of times that you get to see him with his dander up. But mostly, you get to understand the killer instinct that inhabits every songwriter in their quest to write that perfect tune. A take no prisoners attitude. He’s moving forward, and if you just wanna look back in anger or regret, then don’t come a callin’!Yes Paul, we all will be remembered for the things that we say and do, …and you haven’t done so bad yourself.Kat Holiday

  • nicole-arnold
    nicole arnold

    This is a well constructed, entertaining, view of the life of a 70’s icon. Through this movie you will get a good picture of who Paul Williams was and who he is now. Although it shows a typical celebrity arc– rags to riches to drugs to life after–it does so in a way that many of the reviewers of this film find offensive: the movie maker is part of the movie-sort of a documentary and a “making of” the documentary, combined.Early in the film, when Steve first comes up with the idea of making a movie about Paul, he says, “I could make a PBS documentary…”, and the following segment looks just like that. I think that if Steve made the whole movie in that style, most of the critics of it would be happy. But if you look at the footage beginning at 21:20, you can see that Paul is the one who suggests that Steve be PART of the filming-the “Paulie and Steve show” (Paul’s words). Paul states that it would be “really authentic” if he were filmed with Steve, instead of trying to ignore that there’s a camera following him. So the rest of the film is shot that way, and it allows Steve to add the material at the beginning about his motivation for making the movie, etc. And–in my opinion–it’s the connection that Steve and Paul make by filming this way that allows Paul to feel comfortable enough and “natural” enough to relate many of the genuine feelings that make this such a great story.So Steve Kessler made the kind of movie Paul wanted him to make, and the film turned out so much better because of it. It says a lot about the type of man that Paul Williams is today: the former game show and talk show gadfly of the 70’s that spent countless hours trying to make himself the center of attention, would rather be a co-star in a film about him, because he thinks it would be “more authentic”! I believe he was right.

  • oleg-popov
    oleg popov

    It was only in the 1970s that Paul Williams could have occurred. Short, with curly lips that made him look like a smirky Little Lord Fauntleroy, he was a fixture on talk shows, a cheeseball actor, and a profoundly talented melancholy pop composer like “Rainy Days and Mondays.” He’s a humbled man in the doc of Stephen Kessler who regrets the spoiled child he once was.The film is fascinating, although it smacks a little too much of its own lips at the tackiness of the stardom of the freak seventies

  • jennifer-henschel
    jennifer henschel

    This is a wonderful treat for Paul Williams fans (of which I am one), and it’s also a semi-serious portrait of recovery and survival from 1970’s celebrity and the excesses that often came with that lifestyle.My only problem with this film is that the director, Stephen Kessler, a self-professed fan, is a presence in the film the same way Michael Moore often is in his movies. Kessler is likable and it’s apparent that the film probably couldn’t have been presented without some insight as to how and why he made it (no way he could have been invisible). And some of the film’s funniest moments stem from the awkward and sometimes intrusive presence of Kessler and his crew.But I would have liked a better sense of Kessler as an individual and a passionate fan rather than a challenged documentarian (he’s a constant presence but we don’t get to know him well enough). His approach also left me wanting a more linear treatment, like that of an A&E Biography; Williams’ output was so extensive that much of his career retrospective here seems rushed. Kessler includes a lot of awkward cinema-verite moments, many of which are entertaining, but for me there’s not enough coverage of Williams’ acting, writing and recording work and I would have liked more focus on that.Still, I’m grateful that he made the film, and that Mr. Williams was a (sometimes) willing subject.

  • john-bell
    john bell

    I screened this interesting documentary about the 70’s icon at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Director Stephen Kessler, follows the entertainer for a couple of years to find out what he has been up to, how and why he crashed and burned out of the public spotlight. Also included is lots of archival footage of Paul appearing on the Muppet Show, Love Boat, Merv and lots of other venues. So if you’re into 70’s pop nostalgia you’ll get a kick out of it:) Having said that, the lousy camera work almost completely derails the film. The photography is so bad it sometimes literally looks like the camera has been attached to a dogs collar, as its allowed to roam around the room. Fortunately experienced editor David Zieff salvages the amateur work of Kessler and his camera crew, and produces a very entertaining profile of Mr. Williams. Well worth seeking out.

  • katrin-koppel
    katrin koppel

    Those who have been to and experienced the spectacular sights that the top of the mountain has to offer – if only for a brief moment in time – those fortunate few who have had the rare opportunity to have taken in the magnificent views from the top before losing their footing, may no longer occupy a spot at the top of the mountain, but they have nonetheless brought back with them something that most others can never hope to achieve; perspective. To have been to the top – albeit briefly, only to have lost one’s footing as a result of the perilous winds that so often bear down on those who foolishly try to stay atop the mountain too long, is far better than to have been among the many who have valiantly climbed the mountain for an entire lifetime, yet never managed to get anywhere near the summit.Perspective is knowing first-hand the difference between the top of the mountain and the deepest valley below. Perspective is knowing where best to position oneself in order to achieve true balance and harmony in life – ideally somewhere midway up the mountain – high enough up to be able to enjoy the view, but far enough away from both the top of the mountain and the valley below to avoid the perils and pitfalls that await those who risk staying too long in either of those places.Congratulations, Mr. Williams. You have been blessed with the most enviable of life’s assets. Assets that can offer greater personal satisfaction than all the worldly goods that money might buy. You have been blessed with perspective, and the balance that comes with it. With those blessings come inner peace. And in my humble opinion, if anyone is deserving of these blessings, it is you.Outstanding film. Thank you for sharing with us the wisdom and perspective that gave birth to the gracious and humble human being you are today. Thank you as well for the gifts you’ve bequeathed to Americana in the form of the timeless musical masterpieces you created over a very successful career. Your music will live on in perpetuity, long after you and I have moved on, far away from this mountainside we share today.Wishing you fair winds and following seas.Semper Fidelis, Dave Winnett

  • veronika-bozikovic
    veronika bozikovic

    Stephen Kessler, filmmaker and devout Paul Williams fan, says at the beginning of this would-be documentary that he didn’t know singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams was still alive. That’s about as unbelievable as what follows. Kessler and his cameraman trail Williams around for two years, getting snippets of conversation on tape but mostly relying on TV clips. It seems Paul Williams, who was everywhere at once throughout the 1970s, is uninterested in talking about his past; 20 years sober by the end of filming, Williams is described by Kessler as one who looks forward and not back. That’s fine, but there’s no feeling for the crying fans in the audience who still hold Williams’ music sacred, and there’s no love from Williams over his achievements (he’s a different person now). The subject is so petulant and uncommunicative that to say he’s been changed for the better through sobriety is like a slap in the face. Williams is so much more alive–colorful and outrageous and funny–in those old variety show segues that one has to ask: is getting sober such a strain that it drains the life out of a person? **1/2 from **** (mainly for the music, and the brief on-camera interviews with Williams’ long-time band leader, who seems like a genuinely nice person).

  • giuseppina-ruppert
    giuseppina ruppert

    As many others my age, I just assumed that Paul Williams had passed away since he was no longer in the public eye. He was everywhere in the 70’s. A truly talented songwriter, with a self aware wit, he was an excellent talk show guest. Then he disappeared. Netflix showed this documentary as a recommendation after I watch the Glen Campbell documentary and I actually think I enjoyed this documentary more.At first, it was hard to watch as the director came off as stalker-ish and often seemed disinterested when Williams was sharing more poignant aspects of his upbringing, but as the documentary progressed, Wllliams story of addiction, recovery and the discovery of true happiness shone through. I highly recommend this to anyone who has fond memories of Paul Williams in his hey day. This documentary really shows an interesting perspective on celebrity and what truly brings happiness.

  • brizhit-andreasyan
    brizhit andreasyan

    I’m sorry, kids….having written “The Rainbow Connection” and taking some time off for Recovery does not, in any way, give anyone the complete picture or even the scope of Paul Williams’ music. I was SOOOO disappointed in this film. I felt sorry for Williams and his wife…this guy just started following them around and filming everything – no discretion, no important questions…and a focus on a small handful of songs from Paul Williams’ incredibly prolific career. He asked NO intelligent or even non-cloying questions – like where were you born, what did you like in school, what was it like working with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand, who’s your favorite Muppet?, has your process changed? What are you working on now, any new music? Etc…etc….this was done by a guy who made a documentary expecting Williams to come up with the whole script….he did no research, never listed Williams’ credits or mentioned how many movies he wrote for…just loved his ‘rainbow connection’ sung by folks from all over the world. He spent a fortune and did nothing but dull Williams’ reputation…I should have realized from the start the ‘maker’ was a jerk…why would you even THINK he was dead….the internet is readily available to use for RESEARCH as well as for publishing your own flat ideas.

  • camilla-berntsen
    camilla berntsen

    I’ve never seen a documentary that is actually about the filmmaker more than the subject. Paul Williams is extremely gracious, while this stalker/filmmaker injects himself into his life and is completely tone deaf as to Paul’s hints about how he felt crowded and intruded upon. The filmmaker starts out by going on about how he wished he could just hang around with Paul Williams…and that’s what he does the whole film. It barely scratches the surface of what could have been illuminating about his life and work. No, instead we are treated to looking at Paul in a successive number of hotel rooms and then clips generously provided by Paul Williams. I mean who wants to hear about a meaningful story about his father when we can watch him jump out of a plane in Circus of the Stars. This doc was a crime!

  • dr-horvath-mariann-judit
    dr horvath mariann judit

    I saw this film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, with the director Stephen Kessler, and Paul Williams in attendance. The film is funny, poignant, sad, ecstatic, and riveting. Is the film about Stephen or about Paul? Both. Stephen reveals himself as a worshipper of pop culture and the 70s, and the target of his adoration, Paul Williams, is a fully- realized three-dimensional icon of his generation. The portrait of the eponymous artist is mirrored in the eyes and film of the director. I loved the obvious admiration and adoration shown throughout the film, and it doesn’t hide or white-wash its subject’s errors and faults.Truly a beautiful and elegant film. See it.

  • ninthe-van-der-linden
    ninthe van der linden

    It would seem despite Paul’s erstwhile troubles with substance abuse, the undeniable being which is him, comes shining thru, but not with a spotlight but with a muted and profound glow. Just like Paul ( at least I feel this way) it took me a while to warm up to both Kessler’s and his directorial approach to this documentary. At times, Kessler’s approach seemed to mimic Michael Moore’s stylized approach to documentary making which is to let the director’s presence and his intentions/difficulties known. I agree with him that Paul Williams story is one needed to be told. Kessler lets it be known of his own neurosis and fears, and at times its a little unnerving and inappropriate as you also see this being reflected by Paul. But Paul seemingly stays cool, truncating Kessler’s sometime obtrusive manner. One of the things I really liked seeing about Paul was his benevolence towards others who share the same affliction ( if thats the right word) and his very humble lifestyle; he does his own driving, books some of his own gigs, totes his own luggage, lives in a very modest home etc. He doesn’t do those things out of financial necessity, yet he also does not play the martyr. He’s a just a simple man who appears to acknowledge the gift of life and wants to be part of it, hands-on. On the darker side, maybe he behaves this way to distance himself from the life-style that accommodated the self-destructive behavior in the first place. Who knows? The thing that impressed me most about Paul is his ability to live in the now, and look forward, as he shuns his past and nostalgia; not an easy thing to do when you consider his height of celebrity was his past. But this also explains Paul’s reservation of doing the documentary in the first place as it can only come together as a story BY delving into the past. I never got the sense Paul was trying to hide anything, it just seemed sort of pointless to him. He doesn’t seem to be outwardly concerned of danger, he sky dived, he travels all over the world, and just seems genuinely happy to be a part of something. I wish there had been some insight to Paul’s creative process, the film makes it seem he just sort of fell into it, perhaps stemming from, in part, to his stature. Like Paul’s music, the overall tone of the documentary is the good side of sadness, and Paul teaches us, perhaps tacitly so, there IS such a thing and its not such a bad thing after all.

  • anette-nielsen-poulsen
    anette nielsen poulsen

    One of the best and worst things going for this documentary is that Paul Williams is participating in the filming. The director didn’t ask a lot of introspective questions; however, this really wasn’t an interview as it was a film crew and director tagging along videotaping a busy Paul – during meetings, lunch and dinner, etc.. And when the director and Paul finally get around to conducting a really in-depth conversation, it was either cut short by Paul or the director. Having Paul Williams, somewhat at the director’s disposal, I would have liked for him to have discussed The Phantom of the Paradise more, the conventions, his opinions on some of his contemporaries or music from the ’70s through today, any clean road stories, but, as the director noted,”Paul doesn’t look back”. That being the case, the director might have done better in-depth interviewing others about Paul Williams and reduced his screen time to about 25% of the movie.Nonetheless, still a good movie about a fellow childhood hero.

  • pocius-sonata
    pocius sonata

    Writer/director Stephen Kessler is a working filmmaker in Hollywood. He’s a fan of songwriter celebrity Paul Williams. Assuming Paul is dead, he is surprised to find out that Paul is still alive and still working. It turns out that he is sober just recently. Paul Williams was a big songwriter of the ’70s. After a good performance on The Tonight Show, he became somewhat of a celebrity. He became hooked on various substances and fame. However his fame fades.Kessler is somewhat of a stalker. It gets awkward at times. Paul chaffs at Stephen’s insinuation that something is pathetic about his later career. Sometimes he’s treated like a family member. Other times, there is this weird tension. But Stephen always seems to be a fan, and that adds a sweet charming feel to the movie.

  • kalnins-kristers
    kalnins kristers

    These days there are documentaries on pretty much every subject imaginable. All of them have something of their own to offer, but all usually end up with a bit of the same feel. There are always a few that stand out for whatever reason, but none more than dealing with celebrities or various characters that have disappeared form the limelight. The latest talking this subject Still Alive looking into the life of singer, songwriter, and actor Paul Williams.Still Alive follows legendary 70’s icon Paul Williams to see what he has been up to since vanishing from the spotlight so many years ago. If you don’t know who Williams is then you are either too young or lived under a rock cause you couldn’t watch anything without seeing him show up back in the day. While on the surface this film seems like it’s just going to be another one of those slow follow around a celebrity stories with little information other than to tell about what used to be, but you quickly find out this is so much more. Where the filmmaker set out to see what Williams had been up to, clearly turned into something he didn’t expect. Much credit to him for including some of the scenes that are things a lot of people would have taken out. While Williams agreed to let him follow him around, he constantly he seemed annoyed and put out by the whole thing which added an intriguing element to the overall film. It ends up showcasing not only what he has been up to, but a bit of what lead to his stepping out of the limelight as well as the unlikely relationship the filmmaker and Williams form as they the film progresses.Most people always look at a celebrities fall from grace when they go from being a superstar to suddenly gone, but Still Alive showcases a man who had it all and gave it up for something more life and happiness. If you are a fan of Williams, just recognize or never heard of him this is a must see documentary about a legend in the industry. You might be surprised what you learn about some of your favorite music and his involvement.

  • robert-ljubetic
    robert ljubetic

    The gist of “Paul Williams Still Alive” (which I caught at its final SXSW screening in Austin this March) is simply this: would-be feature film documentary maker Stephen Kessler was so obsessed with the way the AM-radio hits penned by diminutive 1970s entertainer Paul Williams had made his teen-aged heart go all a-flutter that he decided to make a documentary about Williams — without even realizing that his “late, great” musical hero was still very much alive! This is a cinematic concept that should’nt have worked — but, thank the Pop Culture gods, it did!Mind you, it never would have come close to passing muster if Williams hadn’t kept a veritably complete reference library of his clips on every bad music, comedy, variety, game and chat show that existed during the 70s and 80s. Nor would it have worked if Williams hadn’t allowed Kessler full use of that library to reveal the inevitable downhill slide that nearly all of Hollywood’s denizens of that time period were prone to follow! For his part, Kessler reveals himself to be (potentially) the world’s worst director of a film like this as well! It’s only when he and his childhood hero miraculously find them-selves on “the same page” (courtesy of an encounter with third-world terrorism, of all things!) that the alchemy begins to take place and the hill of Tinseltown dross turns miraculously into a mountain of pure gold!!! Fans of schlock will be delighted either way, as they roll about ecstatically in the slushy mounds of 70s celebrity offal expelled by the coked-up likes of Robert Blake, Karen Carpenter, Dick Clark, Kermit the Frog, Jack Klugman, Peter Lawford, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, Telly Savalas, Barbra Streisand, John Travolta and more!But more sensitive viewers will find themselves fighting to hold back the tears as the characters refuse to merely remain the two-dimensional “stars” that we enjoyed chuckling derisively at on our little cathode-ray tubes. Watch in stunned semi-silence as a slack-jawed star-gazer, obsessed with the tear-jerking tune-age that kept his appreciation of Paul Williams from advancing beyond the analytical level of a 12-year-old, metamorphoses into an insightful, savvy observer of character before your very eyes! Shudder in awe as the short-statured subject reveals himself to be more than worth the effort of analyzing! Whether your personal reference point to Williams is The Muppets (“The Rainbow Connection”), The Carpenters (Rainy Days & Mondays”), or Brian DePalma’s midnight movie cult classic “The Phantom of the Paradise”, you can trust me at least on one thing about this film: it WILL make you glad that Paul Williams is still alive!– Kenneth W. Lieck

  • dr-gunhild-ostergaard
    dr gunhild ostergaard

    Greetings again from the darkness. This documentary was recommended to me by Adam, a fellow movie and music lover. Without his urging, I probably would have never taken the time to watch this ultimately fascinating and intriguing look at Paul Williams. I say that after an extremely clunky first few minutes where director Stephen Kessler, a self-proclaimed childhood fan of Williams, displays his insecurities and lack of focus as a filmmaker.The best stories have an abundance of conflict, and it turns out that the polar opposite goals of Williams and Kessler make for some spellbinding viewing. See, Kessler wants to figure out what happened to the 1970’s icon and Williams simply wants to show how he has adjusted to a somewhat normal life. Kessler wants to look back, while Williams is living (happily) in the present.If you don’t recognize the name Paul Williams, then you probably didn’t watch TV or listen to the radio in the 1970’s. The guy was everywhere! Known mostly for his prolific songwriting, he also performed, appeared in movies, TV shows, game shows and talk shows. In fact, he was a favorite of Johnny Carson and appeared on The Tonight Show fifty times. And then … just like that … he was gone. Drugs and alcohol destroyed his career. Now twenty years sober, he still performs – just in much smaller venues. This is man who has spent much time soul-searching. His insight into being different (difficult) or special (addicting) makes for a chilling moment.Kessler follows Williams around until he is forced to join him in front of the camera. Their strained relationship is painful to watch until things begin to turn during a long bus ride in the Phillipines. With so much of the focus on Kessler’s attempt to connect with Williams, this is as much a personality analysis as it is a look at the history and current status of Williams.The final act of the film seems a bit staged as Kessler finally gets the “sleepover” at Williams’ house that he had been after for 2 plus years. Reviewing old TV clips does not get the desired reaction … Kessler never seemed to grasp what he had with this film. It’s obvious that the two men now have a connection, but if you are expecting a tribute film to the glory years of Paul Williams, you will be disappointed. If instead you embrace this unusual film, you will come away impressed with the man that Paul Williams has become. It’s no “Rainbow Connection” but maybe it’s even more.

  • mikael-tiihonen-seppanen
    mikael tiihonen seppanen

    Funny – 2012 must have been the year for depressing documentaries about aging great singer-songwriters. Like the Neil Young Journeys fiasco, this film disappoints. It’s not boring like Young’s film, but it is sad, sad, sad!!!And why did Stephen Kessler hound Williams until the end, with old video clips that only humiliated him and made him want to throw Kessler out of his house?I was a writer for Downbeat magazine years ago and I profiled famous jazz musicians, some of whom had personal rough spots and most of whom had seen their careers die down with age. But I knew enough not to make them uncomfortable or embarrass them with insulting questions…and, in the telling, I didn’t emphasize the darker side of things. Yes, tell the tale, but with giants like Paul Williams (those of you who weren’t around might not know he was on the top of the world once, having written scores of great hit songs sung by many – including himself – and he rose to celebrityhood also on his wit and charm) need to be treated with a little more respect.And PS Kessler, I – the grandson of a great songwriter and bandleader – can tell you that the music industry eats you up and spits you out. It’s a rare person whose fame or popularity lasts a lifetime and it’s no fault of the artist.The Monkees’ Davy Jones, may he rest in peace, had a career in later life much like Williams. This is what happens in the fickle music industry. Even Boston’s lead singer, Brad Delp, who sadly took his own life not long ago, experienced disappointment after having been on top of the world in one of the best rock bands ever.So…there’s a bigger story here and it’s not told.

  • sergei-filippov
    sergei filippov

    The reason I was interested in seeing “Paul Williams Still Alive” is because of his recent and entirely unexpected entrance into the limelight at the Grammy Awards. When the enigmatic French band Daft Punk won the award for Best Album, folks were wondering how they’d accept the award. After all, this group’s members are anonymous– wearing strange getup that conceal who they are. So their representative to speak for them was Paul Williams, as he’d produced some of their music. Imagine…a European electro-pop group whose front man is the 1970s TV and recording icon Paul Williams. His tragically unhip songs today (such as “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Rainbow Connection”) are not the sort of stuff you could imagine Daft Punk listening to, that’s for sure! To me, THIS makes for a great story…and isn’t even mentioned in any way, as the documentary came out just before his work with Daft Punk.As for the documentary, I have very mixed feelings about it. On the positive side, it celebrates the huge number of hit songs he gave us in the 70s and 80s–song you heard all the time during that era. It also gives you a nice portrait of the man today–having worked on his substance abuse recovery to create a nice, but busy, life for himself. All this is great. But, the film also has a huge distraction–the filmmaker, Stephen Kessler. He is much of the film–as unlike many documentaries where you don’t see or even hear from the filmmakers themselves (my favorites, by the way), much of the film is Kessler talking about himself and insinuating himself into Williams’ life. And I didn’t care that Kessler was like a proverbial ‘ugly American’ in that he refused to eat the local food when he was traveling in the Philippines…who cares if he’s like this or not since the film is NOT supposed to be about him!?! Maybe I am reading something into it, but he just seemed annoying (his interviewing style was obnoxious at times) and I didn’t want to hear about him and his love for Williams. I just wanted to see and hear Williams. As for Williams, he seemed like a nice guy–and put up with a lot and seemed to roll with what came. All in all, it was nice to see that he is a happy guy who isn’t spending his time looking back but without Kessler’s ever-present presence, i think it would have been a much better film.To any filmmaker out there reading this, why don’t YOU make a good documentary about Paul Williams? He’s very interesting and a worthy topic for a film…and you couldn’t possibly do a worse job than this mess!!

  • fru-lea-johansen
    fru lea johansen

    This film is not a traditional biopic, but rather the director’s recounting of the role Paul Williams has played throughout his life. How he remembers him from his youth, and how he figures into his current life. There are touches of Paul’s early career and life, but the primary focus is on the friendship which grew between him and the director throughout the years of filming.Stephen Kessler, a once hopeful, now floundering director, had been a fan of Williams’ work growing up, but lost track of him somewhere around the early 80’s. Much to his surprise, he found out that the entertainer was not dead, as he had long assumed, and was still making public appearances. He then went on a journey to discover where Paul had disappeared to for all those absent years.The only flaw with this idea is that, for many of us, Paul never disappeared. Sure, his presence wasn’t as strongly felt as it may have been a few decades ago, but even with his struggles with drug and alcohol abuse (now clean for 20 years), Paul was still making music and appearing in several films and TV shows. While I realize that Paul may have been flying under the radar for many, he was far from underground. Kessler ignores these recent efforts, leaving blank Paul’s creative history between 1980 and the late 2000s when he started filming this documentary. When asked during a Q&A following a screening of this film if he was still writing music, Paul lovingly jokes that he is and he thinks Kessler would have been happier to have found him living a trailer and eating out of trashcans, as it would have been better for his movie. This film is not really one about Paul Williams, per se, it seems more about Kessler’s search to find out something about his past, about his own slipping into obscurity, and the ways in which filming Paul transforms from an idea, to a crutch, to a renewed hope in his own career…and a friendship between the two.While I feel like some discredit was done to Paul by lacking to mention the full spectrum of his work, I am glad to have a film that can renew interest in him and his many talents. The film is fully entertaining and Williams is delightful, albeit not quite the focus that the title might lead one to believe.

  • benjamin-saunders
    benjamin saunders

    I grew up across the Whitestone Bridge from Kessler, and since we’re of the same age, my memories of the 70’s and Paul Williams are pretty much in sync. The five stars I gave this film is because of the achievements of Mr. William’s life from an extraordinary entertainer across platforms (music, TV and film)through to his current accomplishments of sobriety, public service, a solid marriage to a good woman, and a continuing demand for his performing from audiences.I was able to get that much out of the film because of Mr. William’s charisma, in spite of the intrusiveness of the director. His omnipresence in the film, his whining about his fear of the Phillipenes before going and through his entire stay was the most cringe worthy part of the movie. His constant attempts, with the subtlety of a bludgeon to embarrass Mr. Williams- from cutting him off when he started opening up about his childhood, to asking ‘how does it feel to go from the heights of fame to the Gong Show’, and when as a guest in Mr. William’s home taping him as he watched one of the most humiliating moments of his career. I enjoy documentaries; and this was the worst one I’ve ever seen because Kessler’s continuous insinuation into the story. He gets the blank stars.After I post this review, I’m going to see if I can catch Mr. Williams on ‘The View’. I hope it’s on You Tube; because I’d enjoy some material about him without having to hear Kessler’s whining. Kessler made a great film barely wort the time to watch it.

  • emma-olesen
    emma olesen

    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.