Paul Williams is a survivor.
The notion that the greatest challenge he's overcome in his lifetime is himself is just one of the things that makes Steve Kessler's documentary "Paul Williams Still Alive" such a pleasure and a revelation. I've been familiar with the work of Paul Williams my whole life, and in many cases, I wasn't even aware when I was first introduced to his work that it was his.
When the Muppets sang "Movin' Right Along" or "The Rainbow Connection" in "The Muppet Movie," or when Jodie Foster sang "My Name Is Tallulah" in "Bugsy Malone," I didn't know who wrote those songs. I just knew that they were burned into my brain right away. When I heard Karen Carpenter sing "Rainy Days and Mondays" or "We've Only Just Begun" on the radio, I didn't even think of the songwriter. I just heard the story she was telling and the heartbreak that she wore like a badge.
I saw the film in Toronto last year and thought it was great. Even better, I got to sit down with Williams, who I think of as oddly under-appreciated, considering this is a guy who's got an Oscar. Now the film is playing SXSW, and it is my honor to be giving the trailer for a film an exclusive debut here on HitFix.
As I cover SXSW this year, expect a fair amount of discussion of music documentaries, because the line-up here this year is very strong, and this is just one of the great artists being celebrated in film. I play to see "Marley" and "Big Star" and the "Big Brains" documentary at the very least, but if my schedule works out, you can expect reviews of more than that, which should lead to me spending indecent amounts of money on iTunes.
SXSW 2012 kicks off tomorrow night.