Olive Films helps fill the COVID-19 sized void as to live theater by releasing the clear-and-crisp Blu-ray of "Nelson Algren Live" (2106) on December 15, 2021., "Algren" is a re-enactment of an interview with the titular author and readings of his works at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the tough guy best known for "The Man With the Golden Arm." The commentary in the words of Algren as to director Otto Preminger grossly distorting that novel for the big screen is a perfect example of the gritty blunt wit and wisdom of Algren.
Although "Algren" seemingly is robbed as to any festival love, it EARNS an exceptional 9.0 IMDb rating.
The opening voice-over narration by writer/actor Russell Banks provides a solid summary of how the working-class background of Algren influences his candid but respectful tone when writing about the underbelly of American society. The apt comparison to better known social commentator Studs Turkel fails to mention that Turkel is a kinder gentler version of Algren.
One of the better tales in "Algren" PERFETLY captures the life and the style of Algren. This story revolves around hooker with a heart of gold/junkie Rose, who probably would owe you change if you paid her two bits to drop to her scabby knees in a puddle of rotted vegetables in a dark alley. Hearing the effort to make Rose the kind of girl that you could bring home to Mother if Mom had paid her own dues in the meat-packing district is fascinating,
The initial search for the dealer of Rose, this man not meeting expectations, and the subsequent "home remedy" rehab effort fully round out this tale of The Windy City.
Willem DaFoe contributes the brightest star power in "Live," in which he figuratively wears several fedoras. He shines brightest in stepping in the boxing boots of pugilist Blackie Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh is in the center ring of the unpublished Algren short-story "The Lightless Room," which first sees the light of day during "Algren." This one evokes more thoughts of Hemingway, rather than Terkel. Not that there remotely is anything wrong with that.
Olive maintains its high standards as to physical-media extras by including a booklet with a photo essay on Algren and an article on this forgotten urban historian. An essay about the performance of "Algren" is an apt end to this fitting tribute.