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Reviews for January 10th, 2011






Chelsea on the Rocks

Directed by Abel Ferrara.


This unenlightening and unengaging documentary focuses on the history and stories of The Chelsea Hotel, the famed hotel located on 23rd St. in the heart of the Chelsea district of Manhattan. It was built during the late 19th Century as a residence building and opened in 1905 officially as a hotel that also allowed for guests to stay there for years. In many ways, it was the center of bohemian and artist life in the city. Musicians such as Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Sid Vicious as well as artist/illustrator R. Crumb and writers, namely, Dylan Thomas and William Burroughs, stayed had stayed there for a while. Stanley Bard, the hotelís owner and manager back then, was gracious enough to allow his residents to be very late on rent with threatening to evict them. He even accepted residents who had no money to pay rent at all, so he trusted them to pay it sometime in the future. Unfortunately, director Abel Ferrara does a subpar job of asking the right questions during the many interviews with the hotelís former and current residents. He includes archival footage and very awkward reenactments, such as Janis Joplin (Shanyn Leigh) having a wild time at a party or Nancy (Bijou Philips) during her final moments with her boyfriend, Sid Vicious, before sheís stabbed to death. Most of the stories that the residents reminisce about arenít particularly interesting or illuminating for that matter. Interviews with actors/former residents Ethan Hawke and Dennis Hopper donít help to invigorate the film either. The lively and amusing parts are ephemeral, such as when film director/former resident Milos Foreman shows up to give a tour of the hotel while telling a darkly funny story about an elderly woman who drowned after fireman flooded her apartment while trying to extinguish a fire there. Under new management, The Chelsea Hotel kicked out its many long-term residents and renovated its interior, thereby losing its character and peculiar charm. Ferrara fails to explore that tragedy in-depth and, most importantly, to answer the underlying question that every documentary ought to answer at some point: ďSo what?Ē At a running time of 89 minutes, Chelsea on the Rocks often drags with poor editing and lack of sufficient insight while leaving you feeling unengaged and underwhelmed.
Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Released by Aliquot Films.
Opens at Anthology Film Archives.





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