The Last Impresario, film review: Documentary about theatrical event organiser Michael White is deliberately ambiguous

(15) Dir. Gracie Otto; 88 mins

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Gracie Otto’s fascinating documentary about the theatrical impresario Michael White is deliberately ambiguous.

On the one hand, the director (an actress and model who is the sister of Miranda Otto) is celebrating White’s life and achievements (which include staging such groundbreaking musicals as Oh! Calcutta! and The Rocky Horror Show, producing Monty Python and John Waters films and putting on experimental events with everyone from Yoko Ono to Pina Bausch). On the other hand, The Last Impresario has an elegiac tone. White today is a much diminished figure, still recovering from a stroke which nearly killed him.

The film acknowledges that he made some bad and very careless business decisions and risked frittering away his empire through his hedonistic pursuit of parties and beautiful women. White’s famous friends – many of them interviewed here – have stood by him. There is real pathos here in Otto’s portrayal of a man whose charm and cosmopolitanism seem increasingly anachronistic in an entertainment business in which handshakes and promises are no longer enough.