Say your a guy who makes TV commercials for a living, but you have bigger dreams. You want to make movies, maybe documentaries, maybe get to met cool people and go cool places. Then one day you see that your childhood hero Paul Williams is putting on a show and you think, hey, I could follow Paul Williams around for a couple of years and see what happens.
Paul Williams Still Alive reminds me a bit of Searching for Carrie Fisher in that our film maker comes across as much more of a stalker than a film maker. The movie is a collection of seemingly random bits of footage where Paul Williams complains about being filmed and questions film maker Stephen Kessler’s desire to constantly film such things as Paul combing his hair, making random comments, and eating a lot of squid. After two years of filming I have to wonder what ended up on the cutting room floor if this is the stuff that made it into the movie.
I have plenty of fond memories of Paul Williams myself, he was pretty much omnipresent in the 1970s and has continued to work here and there ever since. I seem to remember him in an episode of Night Gallery where he played a DJ and something bad happened to him. At one point in Paul Williams Still Alive Stephen asks Paul how he felt about going from a superstar to being a judge on the Gong Show-Paul found the question a bit insulting, but he admitted that his massive drug abuse at the time had something to do with it.
Throughout the film Paul Williams many hit songs play in the background. Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, The Rainbow Connection, Evergreen, and many more that sounded sort of familiar but didn’t ring any bells for me.
There were many times when Paul asked that the filming be stopped. Many times where he talked about what a jerk he used to be. At one point he said he didn’t want to talk about money on camera, as that was no one business but his. I have to wonder a bit about the money though, he was a superstar and he has been working steadily for the past forty years or so-did he really spend the bulk of his wealth on drugs? Paul gets his wish and money isn’t mentioned elsewhere.
The point of Paul Williams Still Alive seems to be that Paul is a mostly normal guy making the occasional public appearance and touring when he feels like it and working at the ASCAP-the good people who collect royalties on songs and such. This last bit is mentioned as the credits start to roll. I’m sure Paul didn’t want to talk about the ASCAP on camera either, he didn’t seem to want to talk about much of anything.
Paul Williams Still Alive was fun to watch, but it left me wondering about both Paul Williams and Stephen Kessler-two people who seem to have way too much time on their hands.