Architecture on Film: Chelsea on the Rocks

Tues 12 February 2013 7.00pm
  • The Chelsea Hotel
  • Milos Forman and Stanley Bard at The Chelsea Hotel
  • Dennis Hopper at The Chelsea Hotel
  • Ethan Hawke at the Chelsea Hotel
  • William Burroughs and Andy Warhol at the Chelsea Hotel

Abel Ferrara
(Bad Lieutenant, King of New York) turns his lens on a different kind of urban violence from his usual - in this end-of-an-era portrait of the legendary Hotel Chelsea at the moment of its brutal shift from bohemian sanctuary to boutique hotel. 

Chelsea on the Rocks (UK Premiere)

The Chelsea
– immortalised in song by Nico and Leonard Cohen – has (in)famously housed more countercultural icons per square foot than anywhere on earth. It's the place where Arthur Miller went to run away from Marilyn Monroe; where Jack Keroac wrote On the Road; where Warhol's Superstars, William Burroughs and Patti Smith would all find refuge – in a den of vice and creativity. If walls could talk, the Chelsea's would be hard to quiet.

A building 'where passing the threshold is like being re-born,' the film sees the growling Ferrara go through the keyhole to give voice to the building's tenants, both known (Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper, Milos Foreman all make cameos) and not, against the backdrop of the politics of its pending gentrification.

Dramatic re-stagings of the ghosts of Chelsea-past punctuate the film – a heavily disguised Grace Jones plays a resident demanding Janis Joplin turn down her music; NYC bad-girl Bijou Phillips plays Nancy Spungen in her death throws with Sid Vicious – as the film reflects upon the Chelsea's past, present and uncertain future. 

In 2007 the Chelsea gained new management. In 2011 it was sold to real estate developers. Its residents continue to be evicted amongst ongoing renovation, its art-works-come-rental-payments stripped day by day from its walls. Ferrara's film offers final testament to The Chelsea's mythology, and NYC's changing urban identity.

USA 2008, Dir. Abel Ferrara, 88 min

I Leave Chelsea Hotel 

The screening was introduced through intimate footage of the Hotel Chelsea recorded by the celebrated artist, filmmaker and former long-term resident, Jonas Mekas. Mekas's diaristic self-portrait records his relationship with the Chelsea's hallowed threshold, offering an intimate document of an era and a landmark, from the godfather of New York's avant-garde film scene.

USA 1967-2009, Dir. Jonas Mekas

download "Chelsea on the Rocks" press pack here



Cinema 1, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS


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Architecture on Film

A bi-monthly series of film screenings that take a lateral look at architecture and the city, as represented and discussed across documentary, video art and the movies.

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Architecture on Film: Chelsea on the Rocks 1970-01-01T01:33:00Z 1970-01-01T01:33:00Z

Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant, King of New York) turns his lens on a different kind of urban violence from his usual - in this end-of-an-era portrait of the legendary Hotel Chelsea at the moment of its brutal shift from bohemian sanctuary to boutique hotel. Plus, footage of the Chelsea from artist, filmmaker, and former resident, Jonas Mekas.