In 1671, with war brewing with Holland, a penniless prince invites Louis XIV to three days of festivities at a chateau in Chantilly. The prince wants a commission as a general, so the ... See full summary »
In New York's storied Chelsea Hotel, a novelist, a dancer, a painter, a poet, an aged jazz singer, and a young troubadour sort out their personal and artistic lives within walls haunted by the likes of Dylan Thomas, O. Henry, and Sarah Bernhardt. A boozy novelist balances wife, mistress, and stories. A dancer who's a waitress in the basement club chooses between a Hollywood jerk and a local painter. A youth from Minnesota who composes and sings may be the next Bob Dylan. A poet decides to give her feckless boyfriend another chance, even as her eyes tell us she knows what's ahead. An old jazz artist wants to place a bet and share his love for Lady Day. These walls do seem to talk. Written by
You're Bob Dylan? By any chance can I kiss your boot?
Hey! You're from Minnesota, aren't ya? You must be him! Huh?
Seriously dude, fuck off.
Bob! Bob! Bob! Bob! Hey, listen to this, you're not going to believe this, man. I am down in the lobby, right? Right?
There's this guy, puttin' up a paintin'. So, I'm like, helpin' 'em with the ladder and shit. He tells me, he lives here, in a room just like this one... but he's got it all for free. Yup, all he's gotta do is give a paintin'...
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I've just seen the dvd of Chelsea Walls and the one thing that seems to be missed by all the other people who have commented on the film is that the screenplay was written by actress Nicole Burdette and existed first as a stage play by her.
Ethan Hawke seems to be getting all the blame for this films lack of narrative structure, but did the play have any? I seriously doubt it. I don't think it was something that Hawke removed just for the film. The script is made up mostly of behavior. Behavior is the kind of thing that serious writers work very hard to expunge from their work in an effort to get to the real meat -- the story or narrative, the thing that the writer needs to say. Chelsea Walls is not that. It plunges the viewer into behavior without any effort to explain what you're watching or who the characters are. This is definitely not what most people expect or want when they go to the movies.
Still though, the actors are very capable, and they are mostly really wonderful to watch. If Burdette had given them the telephone directory to read they probably would have made it at least a little interesting to sit and watch for a while, just because of who they are.
What Hawke, his editor and cameraman have put together here is an ultimately haunting and very poetic experience. I too, like others, have found it very hard to get out of my system. Images and moments from the film still haunt me. There are bits that are true and extremely beautiful in this film, things that are very keenly observed. That, I believe, is what Ethan Hawke brought to Burdette's script.
It was never a very commercial project, but, jeez, all the stones that people are hurling at him seem a little excessive.
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