Landmarks usually don't get their own films -- not to mention a number of films -- but the Chelsea Hotel is different. It is North America's house of art -- a simple, red-brick building that was built in 1883 and holds the history of many creative achievements of the last 100+ years. It's thick with remembrances of writers from Mark Twain to Gore Vidal, Simone de Beauvoir to Jean-Paul Sartre, the vision of actors and filmmakers Edie Sedgwick to Stanley Kubrick, artists from Frida Kahlo to Robert Crumb, and of course, the music. Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Jimi Hendrix, and many more have graced its halls with their notes.

So of course, there have been a number of films that have filmed at, or been based on, the famous artistic hot-spot. In honor of Abel Ferrara's upcoming film Chelsea on the Rocks, I give you two that came before it -- first, the mellow story of Ethan Hawke's Chelsea Walls, and then the energized fury that was Sid & Nancy. Since this double feature is as much about the place as it is the work that came out of it, I'm adding a special intermission of Chelsea fare. Sit back, and enjoy your leap night with a little magical art.

Chelsea Walls



Ethan Hawke's ode to the great hotel focuses on a collection of fictional people struggling to live in create at the Chelsea, with a solid and irresistible indie cast. There's Kris Kristofferson as an alcoholic novelist, Tuesday Weld as his wife, and Natasha Richardson as his mistress, Mark Webber and Rosario Dawson as poets, Vincent D'Onofrio as a painter, Uma Thurman as the poet he desires, Steve Zahn as a singer, and Robert Sean Leonard as a folk singer. And, in a wonderfully surprising, yet all-too-brief role -- Jimmy Scott.

It's simple and slow -- a true indie feature more concerned with the magic of its location than a grand plot. It's a moment snipped in time rather than a cinematic journey. While it might be a stretch to team these people with the famous names of Chelsea's past, it isn't about a destination, but rather the experience.

Steve Zahn rants about rent

Waxing poetic

A hymn

Bathtub conversation

And there's no Scott clip from the film on YouTube, so enjoy his stint in Twin Peaks.


Intermission....

Through the halls of the Chelsea Hotel

David Van Tieghem making music with the Chelsea

A bit of Warhol's Chelsea Girls

Nico's "Chelsea Girls"

Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel"

Living in Sid's room


Sid & Nancy



Made by Alex Cox in the '80s, this flick has just a wee bit more energy, and of course, destruction. Led by the irreplaceable powerhouse Gary Oldman, Sid & Nancy follows the infamous bassist of the Sex Pistols and his rather messed up and destructive relationship with Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). There's botched ideas of grandeur, heavy drugs, death, and jail time -- the usual music trainwreck on film, but with a wee bit more punk.

Roger Ebert's Sun review of the film wraps it up quite nicely, saying that it pulls "off the neat trick of creating a movie full of noise and fury, and telling a meticulous story right in the middle of it." But not all reviews were so pleasant. You can read John Lydon's reaction here. But whatever the ultimate opinions are, most seem to agree that Gary's performance is impressive. But just imagine if Courtney Love got her way and played Nancy?

"My Way" by Gary Oldman

A call between Sid and Nancy

Siskel & Ebert's 2 Thumbs Up

The real Sid and Nancy