Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Man with the Golden Doc

This past Monday, a Kickstarter campaign seeking completion funds for Chicago film prof Michael Caplan's feature-length documentary on American author Nelson Algren fell well short of its $25,000 goal. But in my mind, there's no doubt Caplan will find a way to complete Algren, perhaps even by approaching actor Johnny Depp, who is developing a separate biopic.

Front and center in the great trailer is Hollywood A-lister William Friedkin, director of The French Connection, The Exorcist, and other populist films. Friedkin was a close friend of the author's, recalling at one point how Algren offered to trade his Man with the Golden Arm 1950 National Book Award for fifty bucks. Friedkin also says Algren “was one of the worst poker players I've ever known. He would never win.”

The introductory voiceover for the four-minute doc pitch was provided by Chicago author Joe Meno, winner of a 2003 Nelson Algren Literary Prize for his short story “Midway.” Throw in another well-known Hollywood filmmaker, Philip Kaufman, archive clips of legendary local bookseller Stuart Brent, and it adds up to the promise of a golden doc.

Brent died last summer at the age of 98. The caustic merchant “hated” that Algren purloined books from him as if he didn't know it and says that Algren and his famous lover Simone de Beauvoir often got it on in his store. “Algren loved the low life and she loved the low sex,” Brent notes.

There's just so much good stuff hinted at here about a man who was “Robert Mitchum cool and Harpo Marx funny." Including a revisit of Algren's famous review of de Beauvoir's 1956 novel The Mandarins, a fictionalized version of the couple's hot-and-heavy Chicago-New York-Paris romance. Wrote the author in Harper's: “I think the lady invaded her own privacy...”

Caplan's 2005 documentary, Stones from the Soil, was about a vanguard German school attended in the 1930s by his father Rudolph. The movie went on to air nationally on PBS. He followed in 2007 with A Magical Vision, about magical arts maestro Eugene Berger.

[Montrose Pictures]

No comments:

Post a Comment