Back to IndieWire

Oscar Watch: Hear ‘Paul Williams Still Alive’ Original Song (TRAILER)

Oscar Watch: Hear 'Paul Williams Still Alive' Original Song (TRAILER)

Paul Williams’ original song “Still Alive” from Stephen Kessler’s documentary “Paul Williams Still Alive” will touch any artist, especially someone past their prime. The movie and the song address Williams’ past glories, which are gone, and the fantasy of chasing your dreams vs. the reality of living with day-to-day happiness. In his case, the diminutive songwriter/performer enjoyed quite a run in the pop culture firmament. His songs have earned five Oscar nominations and this latest could well earn another.

Listen to the song here or via this direct link. (The lyrics and trailer are posted below.)

Like Kessler, I grew up with the singer-songwriter, who was ubiquitous on the 70s awards and talk show circuit. This is the guy who wrote Karen Carpenter’s “We”ve Only Just Begun,” Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” and Barbra Streisand’s Oscar-winning “Evergreen,” among many other songs. He also starred in Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” and Tony Richardson’s “The Loved One.”

Kessler, who has had his own ups and downs as a feature and documentary filmmaker, documents how trying it was for him and Williams to come to some kind of comfort over five years of digging into the songwriter’s life and rebirth–he’s celebrating 22 years of recovery this year.

This year the songwriter’s been working with Daft Punk on an album and as president of ASCAP, went to Washington to testify for the Senate about Russian music rights. “We went from stalker to family,” said Williams of the filmmaker at a SXSW screening. “It’s so emotional.” He was grateful that his two grown children could see the film, “awards, warts and all… I’m old enough to be not out, part of me gets back in again.”

“It wasn’t my intention to make a film I was in,” Kessler said. “It’s an honest film.” Only at the end of the process when he did a rough cut did he realize that he needed a comprehensive interview; threads of that four-and-a-half-hour conversation make the picture–as well as the new Williams song.

Here are some early reviews:

THR: “Paul Williams Still Alive represents a remarkable achievement in a documentary. The case under scrutiny is something like a real-life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with the only difference being that the two didn’t simultaneously inhabit the same body nor did this Hyde do harm to anyone but himself — and loved ones. The downward trajectory of pop-culture stars or athletes is all too familiar but in this instance the opposite occurs: Once the self-abusing star recovers his sanity and sobriety, he is clearly a much better, more intelligent and focused human being.”

HitFix: “The film is very funny, but never at the expense of its subject, and never at the expense of the moment.  It’s just that Williams still has a lovely, sharp sense of humor, and Kessler is able to acknowledge the absurdity of his own discovery process on the film.  What could have easily been a dry recitation of a public history or a fawning love letter to an idol avoids all of the easy pitfalls to discover a stirring and sweet story of survival and the way art can connect and affect us even decades after its creation.”

Collider: “…unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen,..Kessler’s film ends up being a far more revealing profile than ever could have possible in a conventional doc. The final product is a rambling, awkward, funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately a very genuine portrayal of a fascinating figure.”

Variety: “There’s a fascinating dynamic at play throughout ‘Still Alive,’ as Williams — sometimes politely, sometimes sternly — repeatedly refuses to fulfill Kessler’s expectations, and progressively prods the filmmaker into making a movie far different than the one he set out to make,..As Kessler himself observes, there’s a tension generated throughout ‘Paul Williams Still Alive’ by opposite points of view: While the director is looking back at a life to make a documentary, Williams — who’s still living that life — is looking forward. But the combination of those viewpoints makes for an engrossing and satisfying pic, one that can be enjoyed even by people who have never before heard of its subject.”

“Still Alive” Original Song by Paul Williams from the film “Paul Williams Still Alive”:

I don’t know you in those clothes
I don’t know you with that hair
Two dimensional reflection
Unforgiving unaware

Part time dreamer
Would be player
You thought fame could outrun fear
Something clearly terrified you
Did you choose to disappear?

Guess again
guess again
You made friends
And some still ask about you
Now and then

Well you sang a pencil promise
That you thought you might erase
left a fault line on your future
Someday heartache you must face
Earned a black belt in disaster
End up acting like a jerk
It’s a fact of life, your final act
Is gonna need some work

Where’ve you been?
Where’ve you been?
Learning lessons on the road to hell
And back again.

And someone asked me once
Where do we go when we arrive
If you’re lucky, when its’ over
The dreamer’s still alive.
A blessed mystery
For sweeter souls did not survive
But if you’re lucky, when it’s done
Somewhere deep inside
The dreamer’s still alive.

Once reality’s your roommate
And the truth stands at your door
All your records have been broken
Trophies won’t shine anymore
New beginnings are the challenge
But you don’t know where to start
Unimagined gifts are waiting
Love will find your grateful heart

Then again
Once again
You will come to know the simple man you’ve always been.

And someone asked me once
Where do we go when we arrive
If you’re lucky, when it’s over
The dreamer’s still alive.
A blessed mystery
For sweeter souls did not survive
But if you’re lucky, when it’s done
Somewhere deep inside
The dreamers still alive.

The anger will be gone
And the cynic will move on
And, if you’re lucky

Paul Williams Still Alive – Rough Trailer – Higher Resolution from Paul Williams Fanatic on Vimeo.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Interviews and tagged , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox