Gerard Depardieu lends his not-inconsiderable weight to Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York, a controversial, fictionalised account of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest for sexual assault in a New York hotel which has seen it censured and censored in its semi-native country of France.
Charges against Strauss-Kahn were dismissed due to inconclusive evidence and a lack of witness credibility with a civil suit later settled out of court, but this balls-out tale ‘inspired’ by Strauss-Kahn’s arrest for assaulting a hotel maid in 2011 refuses to introduce any sense of ambiguity into the narrative. Depardieu’s greasy tycoon Deveraux is guilty as hell here and there’s a sense that Depardieu and Ferrara are going right for the jugular by showing ‘their version of events’.
All manner of debauchery is on show in the first half of this grimly hypnotic tale of two halves. Depardieu spends much of the film’s first hour in extra-marital congress with a veritable army of hookers; grunting, gurning and slapping tits in a near-constant state of arousal. Ferrara keeps his cameras lingering on the copious amounts of flesh on show, while Depardieu lets it all hang out. The champagne-fuelled orgies reek of privilege and rotten lucre and Ferrara and Depardieu are content to show us all the gory details.
Following his bust, Depardieu’s Deveraux finds himself under house arrest, pleading his innocence and dealing with the constant haranguing from his wife Simone, a splendidly exasperated Jacqueline Bisset as a Lady MacBeth-esque schemer who has seen her hard work positioning her husband as the future President of France go up in smoke.
It’s here that the film refuses, or fails, to uncover the motivations and consequences of Deveraux’s awful deeds. Depardieu wears his mask of sociopathy like some disconcerting veneer, preventing us from gleaning any kind of insight. He spends about an hour-or-so just pottering around in a kind of daze, grumbling that he feels nothing for people, not anyone. The protracted way in which the film arrives at a complete and utter lack of remorse may be too much arsing about for some viewers I suspect, but Depardieu’s pig-headed remorselessness is beguiling. As he wheezes around it’s difficult to look away from the monster on-screen.
Whether this typically excruciating work by Ferrara tells us much about the nature of justice beyond the idea that innocence is always for sale to those with the cash is unclear. Gerard Depardieu’s colossal presence means this is always infuriating, ghastly and interesting.
Altitude Film Distribution
Running Time: 125 Minutes
8th August 2014 (UK Cinema)
1st September 2014 (DVD, Blu-ray)
Gérard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset,Paul Calderon, Paul Hipp, Shanyn Leigh, Amy Ferguson