The Legacy of Memory: Our Review of ‘Dreaming Walls: Inside The Chelsea Hotel’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 08, 2022
The Legacy of Memory: Our Review of ‘Dreaming Walls: Inside The Chelsea Hotel’

In the collectively shared zeitgeist of our modern existences there are places that take on a life of their own…

Dreaming Walls: Inside The Chelsea Hotel is about so much more than the edifice itself but rather how its existence has shaped the artists and the people who have been inside it for generations.

The legendary Chelsea Hotel, an icon of 1960s counterculture and a haven for famous artists and intellectuals including Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, and the superstars of Warhol’s Factory, is under renovation. Soon it will reopen to the public as one of New York’s most fashionable luxury hotels. Dozens of long-term residents, most in their later years, have lived amidst the scaffolding and constant construction for close to a decade. Against this chaotic backdrop, Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel takes us through the hotel’s storied halls, exploring its living body and the bohemian origins that contributed to its mythical stature. Its residents and the walls themselves now face a turning point in their common history.

I’ll be the first to admit that this film played a little more ‘avant-garde’ then I expected it to, but that’s ultimately to its benefit as it allows us to get a sense of what the place truly is.  It’s not just a place where a bunch of cool and notable stuff happened on the pop culture landscape but it’s also a place where people lived, died and had very full lives,

This is the debut for Belgian filmmaking team Maya Duverdier and Amélie van Elmbt into the documentary world and it actually plays more like a piece of art more than anything else.  It’s hardly about recounting the history of the place but rather it’s a film that is trying to haunt with the memory of the amazing works that took place there and the people who participated in them.

It’s all more than a little chaotic at times but in many ways this piece really does work as something more experiential then just a rote history of a place.

It’s strange because the story needs but also actively avoids any large doses of context.  It wants to play in the grey areas of memory and experience and that’s kind of why this film works as well as it does.

At the end of it all, go into Dreaming Walls: Inside The Chelsea Hotel with an open mind to experience the fever dream of memory, creativity and the raw power of potential that not only survived but thrived inside these walls.  Through its residents, its history and the indelible moments that were created that gave birth to the myth and the legacy of the one and only Chelsea Hotel.

  • Release Date: 7/8/2022
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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