The Last Impresario ***1/2 (out of five)
Sydney-based filmmaker Gracie Otto has fashioned an enormously entertaining documentary about Michael White, the British theatrical producer best known (or unknown, according to the poster’s clever tag – “The most famous person you’ve never heard of”) for The Rocky Horror Show, O Calcutta, Sleuth, and the movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and My Dinner With Andre.
Told in the current favoured style of letting a multitude of interview subjects – most of whom you know of – tell the story of White’s career and life by passing the narrative ball without the intrusion of voice-over or title cards (the excellent editing is by Karen Johnson), the tone is buoyant, upbeat, optimistic and glamorous, as, it appears, White has been all his rather fabulous life.
White’s had his troubles – booze, drugs and women, natch – but these are elided over, Otto focusing her gaze much more on what is important: the brilliant career. Almost everyone that White worked with seems to be still alive and willing to chat (though Tim Curry is a very obvious omission) and they’re all great company, though Barry Humphries steals the show with the best of bon mots.
White himself – still alive too – gave Otto full access to his archives and himself, and, although there’s not a tremendous amount of actual footage of him, he’s a terrific guest at his own party. Since his friends are all so much more famous than he is, he seems content to let them do the most talking. All very delightful.