By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 11, 2022)
Since 1883, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City has been the center of the universe for bohemian culture. It has been the hostelry of choice for the holiest of hipster saints over the years, housing just about anybody who was anybody in the upper echelons of poets, writers, playwrights, artists, actors, directors, musicians, and free thinkers over the past century.
Maya Duverdier and Amélie van Elmbt’s documentary is an impressionistic portrait of the venerable landmark, vacillating between dredging up the ghosts of its past and profiling some of the current residents as they go about their daily lives (obviously selected for their, ah …colorful eccentricities). Nearly every tenant has an opinion on the extensive renovations that were in progress during filming; some welcome the upgrade, others see it as something akin to sacrilege (the latter camp tend to be longtime residents).
While it may lack cohesion at times, the film is beautifully photographed, with several compelling and hypnotic sequences, as well as unexpected emotional resonance.