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Chelsea on the Rocks
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Chelsea on the Rocks celebrates the personalities and artistic voices that have emerged from the legendary residence, the Chelsea Hotel, in the heart of New York. Once considered an untouchable, impenetrable tower for writers, artists, musicians and mavericks, it has recently been claimed as a boutique hotel venture for a management company that shows blatant disregard for its formidable history. The film intertwines archival footage, interviews and narrative sequences as well as actors who are very much part of the soul of the hotel (Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and others). ... ... Expanded Synopsis: CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS celebrates the personalities and artistic voices that have emerged from this legendary residence in the heart of New York. The 12-storey, 250- room Chelsea Hotel - originally built in 1883 as Manhattan s first cooperative apartment, and the tallest building in New York until 1902 - was converted into a hotel and residence in 1905. Once considered an untouchable, impenetrable tower for writers, artists, musicians and mavericks, it has recently been claimed as a boutique hotel venture for a management company which shows blatant disregard for its formidable history. The officially landmarked building is recognized as an American cultural icon and renowned for those who have lived and created there, including Sir Arthur Clarke, Bob Dylan, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Miller, Joni Mitchell, Dee Dee Ramone, Larry Rivers, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain,Tennessee Williams, Milos Forman, Janis Joplin, Donald Sutherland, Patti Smith, Philip Taaffe, Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Eugene O Neill, Jane Fonda, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tom Waits, Courtney Love, Sam Shepard, Charles Bukowski, Julian Schnabel, Jasper Johns, Viva, Quentin Crisp, Jimi Hendrix and many others (some of whom appear in this film). Beyond the famous are the little known who have made this their refuge in New York - countless writers, painters, directors, costume and lighting designers, gallerists and curators, and those who are just always there with no visible means of support. And then there are those - most famously Sid Vicious girlfriend Nancy Spungen - who died there. Each of these characters fills out a cast that makes this story come together with the best of New York architecture, history, art, comedy and tragedy, all through the eyes and passion of acclaimed auteur Abel Ferrara. Interviewing current tenants, recreating scenes of events that occurred at the Chelsea and intertwining archival footage with different formats of film and video, Ferrara creates a film that breaks through the documentary mould into something that captures the essence of the Chelsea Hotel.
This is a documentary with a kick. --Chris Barsanti, Flimcritic
Chelsea on the rocks tells us stories of suicide, ghosts, drugs, life, death, love and freedom. Here, people don't walk, they float. While Milos Forman goes to confession, Julian Schnabel's daughter passes through to distribute flyers for the next show. The camera continues to roll, we are among friends. And Forman continues his story: a celebration on the floors, a fire caused by cooking meat released a huge cloud of smoke and triggered the intervention of firefighters. The room flooded by firehoses, the occupant drowned. They watch the body transported to the elevator, in a silence of death, and once the doors closed, the party continued. The Chelsea Hotel is packed with stories like this and Ferrara shares them with is, creating a documentary full of energy. --Moland Fengkov, Plume Noire
Top customer reviews
When Chelsea on the Rocks played briefly in theaters, critics complained at Ferrara's omission of on-screen IDs of his speakers, and it is disorienting to encounter one talking head after another with no name. But most of the interviewees aren't famous outside of a narrow circle, and their identity is less important than the stories they tell and the way they tell them. Ferrara wants to capture a mood, an atmosphere, a kind of alternate reality populated by eccentrics that could only exist at the Chelsea Hotel. When he takes you into the living room of the well-dressed couple who proudly point out their African fetish doll made entirely of human excrement and the bones of small children (and that's not even the most shocking thing about it), you feel like you've stepped back in time and directly into an Andy Warhol film.
I found the director's off camera banter with those on camera rather annoying and it took away from whatever story the resident was referencing. And who are these people? Other than during the credit role, we have no idea of their names. And how long have they lived there? I felt more detail on the interviewees would benefit the viewer immensely. One of the highlights was a discussion with Sid, the former manager of the hotel.
Glad to have watched it but feel the filming and overall production was 'by the seat of the Director's pants' , a bit disjointed. The old footage was nice to see but again, felt not always edited well into a very loose, disjointed storyline.