He’s the man at the center of the all the parties you wish you were invited to. He’s the one that everyone who is anyone wants to speak to. A producer of over 100 stage shows and 27 films, he may be the most famous person you’ve never heard of. The Last Impresario is reviewed after the jump.
An influential figure in the theatre and film world, Michael White introduced British audiences to a whole new world of stage shows. In the swinging sixties, he was the producer of shows for artists such as John Cleese, Bill Oddie, Yoko Ono and Spike Milligan. In a more modest time, he constantly challenged the tough censorship laws to bring fresh and risqué productions to the West End. In the decades to come he would produce stage hits such as Oh! Calcutta!, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and A Chorus Line; and successful films which included Monty Python and the Holy Grail and My Dinner with Andre . Through both success and failure he remained part of “the scene” and despite being in his late 70s now, he can’t walk away from the high-flying life quite yet.
The Last Impresario grew from a chance encounter between director Gracie Otto and Michael White at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Intrigued by Michael, Otto set out to learn all she could. Through interviews with Michael, his friends (often famous) and archival footage such as photographs and radio interviews, a picture of this fascinating man is created. Michael has always taken photographs and it is these photographs which give this portrait such depth. Through these we see his incredible world as he does, the parties, the rich and famous, the high life. They really do open the door into a world not inhabited by many. In addition, the film’s wonderfully energetic score is a great match for Michael’s spirited life.
Otto has collected quite the group of famous friends to tell stories and anecdotes about Michael. What struck me most about these interviews was how fondly everyone spoke about Michael. It didn’t feel like they were simply paying lip service, rather they spoke with great respect and admiration for someone who simply loved life and the company of friends. Michael himself sates, “everyone is my friend”, like it is the most natural thing in the world to be friends with everyone. I couldn’t help but think of Jep, the protagonist in 2013’s The Great Beauty, as I learnt more about Michael. A distinguished man with an appetite for life, he is the life of the party and the one person that everyone simply must have time with. It takes a long time to build such a reputation and it’s something which Michael has clearly earned.
The Last Impresario is a comprehensive portrait of a unique individual who has lived a very colourful, rich life.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Gracie Otto
Producer: Nicole O’Donohue
Starring: Michael White, Gracie Otto, Naomi Watts, Anna Wintour, John Cleese
Runtime: 85 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: June 26 2014