Two Nelson Algren Documentaries Race To The Finish Line

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 27, 2014 8:30PM


Photo by Art Shay
Nelson Algren was born on March 28, 1909. That makes Friday his 105th birthday and the Nelson Algren Committee is marking the occasion by throwing a big party this weekend. A number of special guests, including filmmaker Tom Palazzolo and community activist Gail Schechter, will be on hand to pay tribute to the author who gave us such enduring classics as The Man With the Golden Arm and Walk on the Wild Side. Also on the schedule is a peek at the documentary Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, the Road is All, a long-gestating project from Denis Mueller, Ilko Davidov, and Mark Blottner. Its indiegogo campaign is in the final week. Will it get to the finish line?

Meanwhile, Michael Caplan expects to wrap his documentary Algren: Poet of the Neon Wilderness, which we've covered before, in mid-May. Wayne Kramer from MC5 is contributing a music score. Among the interviewees are William Friedkin, Phillip Kaufman, Russell Banks, Rick Kogan, Joe Pintauro, Bruce Jay Friedman, Roger Groening, Barry Gifford, Billy Corgan and Art Shay and his late wife, Florence. (Side note: if you haven't already, go see Art's show "My Florence" at Columbia College's library. It's extraordinarily moving.)

One is tempted to ask the question "Is there room for two documentaries about Nelson Algren?" That's silly. From what we've heard, the two projects take distinctly different approaches; the former using a linear, factual approach and Caplan opting for a more personalized, impressionistic tone. They might end up complimenting each other perfectly. And if it means that more people discover Chicago: City on the Make, that's a cause for celebration.