Chelsea on the Rocks (2008): Abel Ferrara’s Docu of Famous and Infamous HotelPremieres at Cannes Fest

Cannes Film Fest 2008:

Abel Ferrara’s Chelsea on the Rocks is a fascinating, freewheeling personal journey inside the walls, history and mythology of Manhattans celebrated bohemian landmark, The Chelsea Hotel.

The movie received its World Premiere at the 2008 Cannes Film Fest as a Special Presentation on Friday, May 23.

The first documentary feature from the famed, controversial indie auteur Ferrara (“Go Go Tales,” “King of New York,” “Bad Lieutenant”) includes interviews with residents, past and present, such as Milos Forman, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and R. Crumb.

It also contains vintage music, archival footage, and dramatic re-enactments summoning ghosts of the Chelseas storied past– Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin– performed by Bijou Phillips, Jamie Burke, Adam Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito and Grace Jones.

Since 1883, The Chelsea Hotel has been a home to artists great and small, from icons such as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Tennessee Williams, Charles Bukowski, Andy Warhol and Mark Twain, to assorted aspirants, junkies, prostitutes and hermits. But new management has recently begun evicting boho tenants in favor of a more upscale crowd, prompting long-time resident and consummate New Yorker Ferrara to capture the ragged splendor of the place before its unique spirit is lost forever.

Trolling the low-lit halls, visiting the hotels cast of memorable characters and raconteurs, and hanging out in the gallery-like lobby strewn with tenants paintings, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS is shot through with an infectious brio, gallows humor and a hard-knock warmth to match its uniquely beloved subject.

As yet another of New York’s cultural landmarks threatens to effectively vanish for the sake of a bland corporate status quo, Ferrara passionately shows how its often the misfit structures–and dwellers–that possess a city’s soul.


Running time: 88 Minutes.

Directed by Abel Ferrara. Produced by Jen Gatien and David D. Wasserman. Executive Producers: Kris Haber and Ovidio E. Diaz. Screenplay: Christ Zois, David Linter and Abel Ferrara. Cinematography: Ken Kelsch. Editor: Langdon Page. Music Producer: Hal Willner. Score: G.E. Smith and Tony Garnier. Music by: Sonic Youth, Love + Rockets, Abel Ferrara.


The ensemble includes Dennis Hopper, Ethan Hawke, Grace Jones, Bijou Phillips, Adam Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito, Shanyn Leigh, Vito Acconci, Lola Schnabel, Christy Scott Cashman, Jamie Burke, R. Crumb, Gaby Hoffmann and Milos Forman.