The mysticism of the Chelsea Hotel has many facets. Long earlier it became a hipster haunt, the 12-story, 250-room Fortress congenital in the 1880s was home to Marker Twain (though, come up to think of it, he might take been the original hipster). During the 1950’s the Chelsea was dwelling to various literary figures, the first to lend information technology a voluptuous aura was Dylan Thomas, who lived the opulent life of room 205 when he fell ill and died in 1953. The Beats moved in (Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac) and Arthur Miller after divorcing Marilyn Monroe and Arthur C. Clarke while writing 2001: A Infinite Odyssey.
But it was Andy Warhol who put the postage stamp of underground cachet on Chelsea when he filmed his 3-and-a-one-half-hour, multi-screen foray “The Chelsea Girls” there in 1966. By the time Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe took up residence in 1969, they already saw themselves as the next generation in the Chelsea tradition of bohemian squalor. The world’south coolest musicians lived at the Chelsea (Joplin, Dylan, Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Dee Dee Ramone) and ofttimes did the coolest drugs, a trend that peaked and imploded in 1978 when Sid used Vicious and Nancy Spungen the place as her personal heroin den, and Nancy Spungen died there, probably as a result of a failed suicide pact.
Some other layer that is non so incidental. I had lived in New York for several years and had walked past Chelsea dozens of times when ane day I found myself staring upwards at it from across the street. And what I realized for the first time is that it is a stunningly beautiful slice of architecture. The red brick, the black metal balconies, the turrets, the impressive expanse – information technology’southward like Victorian Gothic
landed in the heart of West. 23rd St.
Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel is a documentary about the Chelsea Hotel that deals with almost none of these things. I mean, the legends are in that location, hanging effectually the edges of the motion picture; one could say, as an observer does, that they are the ghosts that haunt it. Merely “Dreaming Walls” doesn’t contain much of Chelsea’s storied history. The moving picture was shot over the last 3 years, while the hotel was in the final stages of a renovation that had spanned nearly a decade. The thought was that after years of being Manhattan’s most famous and majestic flea market, the Chelsea would be transformed into a boutique hotel, ane that would build on its layers of legends. (At least they wouldn’t accept to
the hotel to accomplish this, every bit fashion designer John Varvatos built his Bowery boutique on CBGB’s grave.)
In Dreaming Walls, the film’s co-directors Amelié van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier never leave the inside of the Chelsea. We see what a m pattern the place had – the chandeliers, the haunted imperial hallways, the staircase with its ornate black iron railings forming an oval out of a no-see horror movie. If The Tenant’s Roman Polanski had directed The Shining, this is what the Overlook Hotel would have looked similar.
In the documentary, however, the sombre splendor of it all is marked by the unaesthetic signifiers of the renovation: hanging plastic panels, exposed pipes, unfinished walls. Anyone who has ever done a major home renovation knows that for a while you lot live in a state of construction that balances between what your abode was and what it will exist. And “Dreaming Walls” uses the stately disorder of the Chelsea renovation every bit a metaphor for a pivotal moment in cultural limbo. The by – the bohemian tradition of people living in Chelsea for very little money, making art and (frequently) doing drugs – is gone. The hereafter where everything will be plastered over is coming fast. The subject area of the film is the last stragglers of the Chelsea mystique: the by and large old tenants who were nevertheless there, waiting to be evicted, living as withered totems of a globe that in one case was.
They’re non famous, although one of them, Merle Lister, started her ain dance visitor in the ’70s, performing at places like Lincoln Center. Now she is grayness-haired and bent over, with a longing glow. She and some of the other Chelsea residents have a lively presence despite (or perchance because of) a sadness hanging over them. The death of the maverick is non a happy subject, even in a documentary that pays affectionate tribute to her.
“Dreaming Walls” contains some footage from l years ago. We encounter Patti Smith, billed as a “poet and musician,” forth with clips of Stanley Bard, who started there every bit a plumber’southward assistant in 1957 and took over in 1964, doing more than anyone else to maintain and sustain the hotel’s existence equally a haven for artists and deadbeats and everyone in between. He was evicted in a ability struggle in 2007 — but the fact that the film is so vague about it all doesn’t exercise it credit. “Dreaming Walls” is conceived as a gratuitous-floating, sometimes accidental, maverick daydream. What it shows usa keeps provoking questions (how many people, on average, were renters at the Chelsea? What were they offered when the renovations began?) that it’south frustrating non to get answers to.
The filmmakers could have fabricated a portrait of the Chelsea’due south fading embers that included the broader history of the hotel’s occupants over the past one-half-century. Nonetheless, the Chelsea Hotel seems to inspire films that indulge in a certain artistic idiosyncrasy (though Abel Ferrara’s 2008 documentary Chelsea on the Rocks has more of what you want). Dreaming Walls does not aim to capture the history of Chelsea or even the experiences of the people who lived there, but rather the afterglow of Chelsea. The people it shows u.s.a. can e’er check out (or get kicked out), but they tin never leave.
https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/dreaming-walls-review-chelsea-hotel-1235312189/ ‘Dreaming Walls’ Review: Elegy for the Chelsea Hotel’due south Bohemian Mystique