A movie review of “Welcome to New York”: This fictionalized version of the sexual-assault case against French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn seems more interested in condemning the central character than illuminating him. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York,” a fictionalized retelling of the 2011 sexual-assault investigation of French politician and International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, circles a point about spiritual corruption without ever landing on it.
Strauss-Kahn was charged with attacking a maid in a New York City hotel. The alleged victim was deemed unreliable and the case dismissed, but Strauss-Kahn was subsequently investigated and recently tried for other sex-related crimes.
In Ferrara’s version of the New York events, the Strauss-Kahn equivalent — a French presidential hopeful named Devereaux (Gérard Depardieu) — is a reckless swinger with an insatiable appetite for high-priced prostitutes. There’s a discomforting sexual cast to all of his interactions with women (including his daughter), which he regards as a perk of being rich and powerful.
Movie Review ★½
‘Welcome to New York,’ with Gérard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset, Pamela Afesi. Directed by Abel Ferrara, from a screenplay by Ferrara and Christ Zois. 125 minutes. Rated R for graphic sex and a scene of sexual violence. Some dialogue in French, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant”) presents a scene in which Devereaux assaults a maid (Pamela Afesi) not as fact but rather as the latter’s subjective testimony. If that ambiguity was meant to be ironic — given Devereaux’s otherwise unarguable perversity — it doesn’t add any interesting nuance to this film.
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Nor does much else. A long section of “Welcome to New York” is a gritty, harrowing account of what the arrest and booking process looks like for a suspect in New York. The images make interesting docudrama footage but are largely there to delight in taking Devereaux down a few pegs.
Scenes of extended arguments between Devereaux and his wealthy wife (Jacqueline Bisset) over demolished political opportunities expose Depardieu’s character as a former idealist whose grooming for office turned him into a self-indulgent monster. One who, in fact, unabashedly enjoys his monstrosity.
That’s an interesting idea, but Devereaux, like any character, should be more than an idea. Ferrara — usually a master at teasing out hard-to-locate humanity — has denied him even a ruined, if authentic, soul.