Nelson Algren: The End Is Nothing, The Road Is All (the trailer on Vimeo).
This is later: “The End Is Nothing. The Road Is All” takes its title from the epitaph on Algren’s headstone, which comes by way of Algren’s devoted friend and agent, Candida Donadio, who took it from a Willa Cather story. Donadio once told me she’d been saving those words for her own headstone. But when Algren died, she had them chiseled into the headstone she bought for him.
Before anyone gets the idea that I’m dissing the other documentary, “Algren,” which I happen to be included in as one of its talking heads, I stand by what I wrote earlier — that it is “more a fact-filled eulogy than a probing documentary” and that its “seamless editing” is especially superb and that it “floats on a raft of brilliant Algren quotes, all smartly chosen and nicely tied together.”But I am saying (although comparisons are egregious) that “Road” is more satisfying because while it has all that — the seamless editing, the brilliant quotations, and so on — it tells a more complex tale. Which is crucial. And it’s not merely because of access to different or in some cases better sources (Clancy Sigal, for instance). After all, both flicks include Algren himself, as well as Denise DeClue, Studs Terkel, Stuart Brent, Dave Peltz and others. Both even use some of the same footage from other films. And both have great archival photos. But “Road” uses its sources and footage differently. It’s made by a team of experts, experienced pros, but it’s not slick. It tells Algren’s story in a slower tempo and with greater texture, which is more aborbing. Simply put, “The End Is Nothing. The Road Is All” lives up to its title. It’s in a different league from “Algren.”
The film opened at the American Documentary Film Festival on March 27. It had its Chicago debut earlier this month, on April 4, at the Gene Siskel Theatre. It is produced and directed by Denis Mueller, Ilko Davidov, and Mark Blottner, and is being distributed by First Run Features. A commercial release is expected later this year.
Here are two video excerpts from “Road”:
Here are two more video excerpts: