Thanks to all involved for making the Chelsea Hotel Film Festival a success! In addition to attending the press preview for Harry Smith’s #23—a remarkable film, though one of our neighbors tells us that Harry considered it unfinished—we also stopped by the Anthology Film Archives a couple of times over the weekend to check out a few other Chelsea related offerings.
We heard that the premiere of #23 was well attended and that celebrities Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye were in the audience. (Patti is featured in the film.) Additionally, Chelsea Hotel historian Sherill Tippins tells us that all the screenings of Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls were sold out. (Actually, this is not surprising since it’s rarely shown. We skipped Chelsea Girls this time since we’ve already seen it twice.) So despite recent unfortunate events, and despite the fact that this was Easter weekend, the Chelsea is still popular!
On Saturday we attended the screening of Doris Chase’s 1992 documentary Hotel Chelsea. In one of the more interesting interviews, Stanley Bard speaks of how, as a young man, he resented the hotel because his father spent so much time there. Then he goes on to explain how he too gradually came to love the Chelsea. This theme surfaces again in Sam Bassett’s film, as Stanley talks about how his own son David may have initially felt pressured to take a role in the hotel’s management, when in fact he would have rather been doing something else. But the Chelsea bug gradually came to infect David as well.
On Sunday, Sherill Tippins introduced the screening of Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story, by discussing the hotel’s early years. The Chelsea was of course designed by Fourier disciple Philip Hubert as a socialist experiment in cooperative living; but one think we didn’t know was that, in addition to artists, the building also initially housed some of the financers and builders of the Chelsea. Tippins considers Louisiana Story to be the perfect Chelsea Hotel film. For one thing, it was a collaboration between three Chelsea residents: director Robert Flaherty, composer Virgil Thomson, and cinematographer Richard Leacock. For another, it embodies the aesthetic style of naturalism prevalent in the Chelsea at the time, representing a distinctly American, as opposed to European, tradition. Finally, in an expression of one of the core values of Bohemia, the film demonstrates how master craft person and Chelsea Hotel resident Robert Flaherty is passing his knowledge on to another resident, the young Leacock.
What we’re really looking forward to now is a showing of Harry Smith’s great Mahagonny, though we may have to wait awhile, since the folks at AFA tell us that the royalties for the Kurt Weill score of the film are prohibitively expensive.
For now, this will have to do! Recorded in Chelsea Hotel, NYC, 1965. Edited, for length, as part of the Chelsea Hotel Series - Anthology Film Archives, April 2009 Harry Smith discusses hand drawn film techniques, missing films, the process of "visual music," or painting to sound. Smith also discusses borrowed cameras and the pawn shops they end up in, influences through dance and myth, surrealism, op art, and the cataloging of images and "sortilege" method. Interview finishes with the discussion of a future film idea involving Andy Warhol and a 20 minute picture of Mt. Fuji, Jack Smith, Robert Frank, Stan Vanderbeek animating aboriginal bark painting, a screenplay by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs and maybe Allen Ginsberg, with Smith supervising. Also ideas to make and distribute underground movies to be shown in little towns. Audio transferred, compiled, and edited by Victoria Keddie (NYU) for Anthology Film Archives 04/09/09.