Abel Ferrara returns to the Festival de Cannes bearing Chelsea On The Rocks, a documentary featured in a Special Screening. The American director has presented numerous films on the Croisette in the past: Bad Lieutenant (1992) and R Xmas (2001) at Un Certain Regard; The Blackout (1997) and Go Go Tales (2007) out of Competition, and Body Snatchers (1993) in Competition.
Chelsea On The Rocks draws its energy from the artistic individuality of the tenants of this legendary building on 23rd Street in Manhattan. Built in 1883, the huge block of flats was one of the city's first apartment cooperatives. With its twelve stories, it remained the city's tallest edifice until 1902. In 1905, it was converted to a 250-room hotel. At that point, it found its identity as a home and sacred sanctuary of creativity, for writers, painters, musicians, and all other free spirits. Unfortunately, it was recently taken over by a luxury-hotel promoter without the slightest respect for its legendary past.
Abel Ferrara explained how this film came about: "I’ve stayed at the best hotels across the world, but they really pale in comparison to the Chelsea. My friend and young producer Jen Gatien, daughter of the infamous New York nightclub impresario Peter Gatien, was set on doing a documentary on the hotel. I jumped at the chance to direct.”
“Jen was living in the Chelsea Hotel at the time. Part of the impetus came when she, a resident on the 7th floor, awoke one day to discover that Stanley Bard, the creator and manager of the star hotel, had been given sudden notice that he was being forced out of his position of 45 years and that his son would be locked in continuing this reign.”
“Rumors (which swirl around the hotel like a tornado) were mounting and the word was that the Chelsea was about to be given a Chateau Marmont makeover. The rumors were as creative as everything else that has come out of the place. I was confronted with the possibility of it becoming a cookie cutter Four Seasons with a Starbucks in the lobby.”
“We took conventional feature film documentary a step further, using a filmic structure that intertwines archival footage and interviews, and adding vignettes, performed not only by actors from my usual group but also actors who are very much part of the soul of the hotel (Ethan Hawke, Adam Goldberg and Dennis Hopper).the scripted segments were jus a way of using fictional storytelling to get the truth and the essence of the Chelsea.”
“I took these stories and reunited with the infamous psychiatrist/screenwriter Christ Zois. The Chelsea Hotel is a place of great literary tradition – Vladimir Nabokov, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller – therefore I was faced with the daunting task of living up to the legacy.”