(Virgil Films, 85 mins) www.virgilfilmsent.com
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Songwriter and musician Paul Williams typified the ‘70s – shaggy hair (imagine a male version of Jodie Foster), wide lapelled polyester suits, big bowties and tinted glasses. He had a slew of hits to his credit; he wrote songs for everyone from David Bowie and The Carpenters to Helen Reddy and Kermit the Frog; hell, he even starred in Smokey and the Bandit! And then coke and booze and then… he died (not literally, but career-wise).
Director Stephen Kessler, likely as penance for directing the dreadful movie Vegas Vacation, set out to find out exactly what happened to his childhood idol in Paul Williams: Still Alive (Virgil Films). The result is a little sad (Williams is performing in tiny theaters in Canada and… little else) but also pretty damn funny, most of it self-deprecating by the director.
A non-traditional bio documentary, that’s part self-confessional, part comedy and more than a little sentimental, Still Alive is a pretty impressive exercise reinventing what would could have easily been just another paint-by-numbers where are they now/Behind the Music hybrid, and in its place produces a must-see-it-to-believe-it music doc.