Welcome to New York

Directed by Abel Ferrara
Written by Chris Zois and Abel Ferrara
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset, Marie Mouté and Pamela Afesi
In UK Cinemas and VOD August 8th, 2014

by Charlie Cauchi

The real life scandal surrounding former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011 provides the basis for Abel Ferrara’s latest film Welcome to New York. Ferrara fills in the gaps with his trademark provocative style of filmmaking, here replacing DSK, as he is commonly known, with French heavyweight Gérard Depardieu as Devereaux.

In a virtuoso performance, Depardieu’s Devereaux is at once both repugnant and fascinating. A grunting, big-bellied brute of a man in a perpetually disheveled state, Devereaux is a highly public figure whose life behind closed doors is anything but upstanding.

For the first 30 minutes of the film, we are bystanders to his carnal repast, watching him as he paws his way through the smorgasbord of women offered up to him to feast on. Do not be mistaken however; there is little in the way of titillation to the graphic sex scenes that make up Welcome to New York. Rather, Ferrara renders these acts base, violent and devoid of any real eroticism.

During the first part of the film, Devereaux only inhabits spaces where others are at his service, his needs tended to by numerous nameless individuals: sex-workers, secretaries, flight attendants…and of course, chambermaids. Taking is a natural part of Devereaux’s universe, perhaps so much so that to him any body, of any age or any race can be exploited in any way he pleases.

This soon changes, however, after Devereaux is arrested for assaulting a member of staff at the Carlton Hotel. He is first placed behind bars and then under house arrest, joined by his long-suffering wife Simone (Jacqueline Bisset) in a sleek New York apartment that comes with an in-home cinema and a cool $60,000 a month price tag. The scenes between Devereaux and Simone are extremely powerful and cinematographer Ken Kelsch’s lingering long-takes gives the film a realistic, at times gritty verisimilitude.

In the hands of any other director, this may have been a fable of justice and redemption. But in Ferrara’s main protagonist, scarcely a trace of remorse or guilt can be detected. What we get, however, is an audacious and complex response to addiction, narcissism and greed.

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