Paul Williams, who has had a successful career as a songwriter which has been overshadowed by a sort of campy reputation, is the subject of a new documentary, aptly entitled Paul Williams: Still Alive, which is currently running in New York City and was released in Los Angeles this past Friday with a national release to follow shortly.
Williams, with his bespectacled golden-tressed look and diminutive size, was almost like a regular schlocky renaissance man of the 1970s. He won multiple Grammy awards and even an Academy Award for his songwriting. He’s responsible for The Carpenters “We’ve Only Just Begun,” the sappy yet irresistible ode which almost singlehandedly and arguably ushered in the mellow vibes of the 1970s. He co-wrote Barbara Streisand’s “Evergreen” and “The Rainbow Connection,” the guiltily pleasurable anthem of the original Muppet Movie from 1979. Williams was the star of the early Brian De Palma 1974 cult classic film The Phantom of the Paradise. He appeared on the Johnny Carson incarnation of The Tonight Show countless times during the 1970s, almost to the point of being a fixture of that program. And he also made appearances on TV shows as diverse as The Odd Couple and The Muppet Show respectively. Currently, he’s the President of ASCAP. Not bad for a guy who gets easily dismissed so often as a default product of the cheesy variety.
Now, from the company that produced the great documentary about the heavy metal group Anvil a few years back comes a thorough overview on Williams in Paul Williams: Still Alive. Critics have been surprisingly rising above the easy target obviousness of its subject and have been calling it “a remarkable achievement” and adding that the pic is a “stirring and sweet story of survival.” Directed by unabashed fan Steven Kessler, the documentary not only showcases the life and career of Williams, but also Kessler’s obsession with the man and his quest to meet Williams as well. Paul Williams: Still Alive is sure to remain for fans of Williams and even those that quickly dismiss him, something that is probably one part kitsch, two parts unintended camp, but ultimately, all parts passion.
You see can see the trailer below for the film, and there’s even a new song from the film called “Still Alive,” to be listened to, or possibly quickly denounced, depending on your taste, here.