The Last Impresario Gracie Otto

The Last Impresario Gracie Otto
Of all the major players responsible for bringing a play to the stage or a film to the screen, the least recognized is probably the producer. Helping to illuminate what it is those moguls often only seen behind the podium at awards shows actually do, the engrossing documentary The Last Impresario focuses on legendary British producer Michael White and reveals how he's managed to navigate the indulgences and risks that accompany a life in show business.

After being separated from his family at a young age due to asthma, White would go on to develop a reputation in the London theatre scene for backing projects that pushed the envelope. His first production, The Connection, was about a group of addicts waiting to score drugs and featured graphic simulations of shooting up. Soon after that, he was making Oh! Calcutta!, a groundbreaking and highly successful piece of theatre that had its hesitant performers dancing nude on stage.

Despite having a long career that included many accolades, the film does not shy away from some of his failures, as well. In discussing a deal made with Lou Adler for the film rights to The Rocky Horror Show, neither White nor Adler seem keen on disclosing the details of how it ended up coming out so favourably for Adler. It's also interesting and perhaps unsurprising to learn of White's issues with gambling, given that he made a living off betting on the right horse, in a sense.

If the film seems at times as if it devolves into people simply singing White's praises, at least there's an impressive roster of celebrities participating. Everyone from John Cleese to Kate Moss to Yoko Ono offer anecdotes of how White fostered their talent and compliment his uncanny knack for crafting an eclectic guest list at his parties. Though it's hard to believe White's assertions that he has no enemies, it's worth noting that even his ex-wives and girlfriends have wonderful things to say about him.

And then there's White himself, rendered a little difficult to understand at times because of a stroke he suffered, but still fighting the good fight against the aging process as he approaches 80. He's grown so accustomed to the extravagant lifestyle of all-night partying that accompanies being in the limelight that his children have ironically had to institute a curfew for him. Whenever he nostalgically combs through his massive photo collection of countless friends from the past, you sense that perhaps the reason he likes to take pictures so much is that it's the closest he can come to freezing time.

(Blue Ice Docs)