Welcome to New York
Trashy fictionalised account of Strauss-Khan case says little of consequence, despite Jacqueline Bisset and Depardieu
The (dis)-honourable traditions of the film a clef, true-life stories fictionalised for legal reasons in the fashion of Citizen Kane, The Greek Tycoon or Velvet Goldmine, are spottily maintained by Abel Ferrara's torn-from-the-headlines drama Welcome to New York.
Gerald Depardieu brings his not-inconsiderable bulk to bear on the role of Devereaux, a global financier with one eye on the French presidency, and the other on any available woman who crosses his path. Devereaux comes spectacularly unstuck when he sexually assaults the maid who unwittingly disturbs his shower in a hotel room during a business trip to NYC. Few will miss the clear parallels to the much publicised court-case of IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stood for a similar crime in 2011.
Like Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street, Ferrara is less interested in the potential for business and political comment, preferring a thorough and somewhat prurient consideration of the sex and drugs aspect; the first forty minutes of Welcome to New York is an exhausting slog through custard-caked genitals and microwaved Viagra shooters as Devereaux single-handedly attempts to exhaust the local hookers. But once the central crime is depicted, in no uncertain terms, Ferrara's film picks up with the introduction of Devereaux's practically-minded wife Simone, played with some ferocity by Jacqueline Bisset. Under no illusions about her husband's sexual proclivities, she's nevertheless disappointed by his inability to stick to the prescribed, allowed excesses of his profession, and ones which do not incur the interest of the law.
Ferrara sticks closely to the known facts of the Strauss-Khan case, although casually throwing in a second attempted rape by Devereaux makes the director's agenda somewhat bald. Such embellishments sit uneasily with drawn-out scenes of Devereaux stripped and humiliated by prison guards, with Depardieu’s' flapping gut and scrotum filling the screen to unappetizing effect. Such balance seems redundant in a film which says little of consequence beyond fictionalizing its target; only Bisset's Lady Macbeth-like presence hits an appropriately hysterical note for this tabloid-trashy film which quickly chokes on its pretensions.
Screening at Dominion, Edinburgh, Sat 21 & Sat 28 Jun, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Selected release from Fri 8 Aug.