Dir. Abel Ferrara. 2008. R. 88mins. Documentary.
Abel Ferrara is not a natural documentarian. He will interrupt his subjects with gruff asides or profane exclamations. His shot choices are haphazard and arhythmic, always cutting against any recognizable beat. Yet Ferrara’s unconventional methods only manage to serve Chelsea on the Rocks, his loving portrait of Manhattan’s boho landmark, the Chelsea Hotel.
This downtown edifice has housed all number of tenants, from Tennessee Williams to Patti Smith, from Ferrara himself to Thomas Wolfe. Each of these people is represented here in some way, if only fleetingly. The director even reserves some docudrama interludes—performed as if they were endlessly looping improvisatory slams—for former lodgers Janis Joplin and Sid Vicious.
Yet Ferrara’s bigger goal…