New York filmmaker Abel Ferrara visits the legendary Chelsea Hotel, interviewing current and former residents.
Abel Ferrara's fond, impressionistic look at NYC's legendary Chelsea Hotel is not exactly your usual cinéma-vérité documentary; the famously combative director is physically unable to step outside his own frame, whether by design or by accident, carried by his own reaction to the interviews with current and former residents.
The film is more of a highly personal essay on a lost era of multicultural bohemia, where reportage and documentary tropes and some archive footage meet with loose reenactments of a couple of the most scandalous episodes in the hotel's history. It also works double shift as a plea for the preservation of the memory of the Chelsea as a pivotal place in New York culture, as it was shot in the middle of a legal battle between owners wanting to turn the Chelsea into an expensive boutique hotel and Stanley Bard, the manager that made its reputation.
While technically a minor work in the Ferrara oeuvre, Chelsea on the Rocks is a summation of where the director stands: as a defiantly independent filmmaker ready to pursue his vision against all odds and willing to resist against the encroaching conformity, come what may. The Chelsea's struggle is, in many ways, a metaphor of Ferrara's – and the fact that he hasn't shot a fiction feature since 2007's disappointing Go Go Tales is as ominous as the Chelsea's ultimate defeat at the hands of its owners.
© 2011 Jorge Mourinha. All rights reserved by the author.
With Vito Acconci, Jamie Burke, William S. Burroughs, Christy Scott Cashman, R. Crumb, Giancarlo Esposito, Milos Forman, Adam Goldberg, Ethan Hawke, Gaby Hoffmann, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones, Janis Joplin, Shanyn Leigh, Rockets Redglare, Sid Vicious, Andy Warhol.
Directed by Abel Ferrara; produced by Jen Gatien, David D. Wasserman; written by David Linter, Christ Zois, mr. Ferrara; music by Rob Burger, Tony Garnier, G. E. Smith, Giancarlo Vulcano, Jim White, produced and supervised by Hal Willner, Gavin Friday; director of photography (DuArt), Ken Kelsch; production designer, Frank de Curtis; costume designer, Nile Cmylo; film editor, Langdon Page.
A Deer Jen presentation/production; produced in association with Apollo Films. (World sales, Wild Bunch.)
Screened: distributor advance DVD screener, Lisbon, March 4th 2011.