Welcome To New York Review

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The sexual appetite of banking bigwig Devereaux (Depardieu) leads to his downfall, as he is charged with the indecent assault of a hotel maid.


In May 2011, International Monetary Fund president Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York for sexual assault. Although the case collapsed, Strauss-Kahn’s career and marriage were in tatters, his French Presidential hopes dashed. The fact that the charges were never publicly proven (the victim’s civil case was settled out of court) hasn’t stopped firebrand director Abel Ferrara from making a film inspired by the incident and its aftermath. Although the names have been changed, and the film opens with a bold disclaimer claiming it’s all made up, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s as thinly disguised as a warthog wearing a hat. In an equally litigation-baiting move, Ferrara has used many of the actual locations to tell his story, which begins with a series of orgiastic sexcapades that make Eyes Wide Shut look like Brief Encounter.

Nothing in the film’s graphic sexual content or ripped-from-the-headlines immediacy, however, comes close to the outrageousness of Gérard Depardieu’s central performance, which makes even a phrase like tour de force seem inadequate and flaccid; it’s one of those larger-than-life performances — Cagney in White Heat, Pacino
in Scarface, Nicholson in The Shining, Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood — that seem to come along only a couple of times a decade. Jacqueline Bisset gets a couple of terrific scenes as Devereaux’s long-suffering wife Simone, but this is Depardieu’s film. Frequently naked, grunting and snorting like a rutting bull, he cuts an alternately porcine and bovine figure, a sex-crazed Obélix in a business suit. Recalling Harvey Keitel’s tortured cop in Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, Devereaux is an unreconstructed, unrepentant monster with no hope of, or interest in, redemption. It’s a fearless, heroic performance in a provocative, important film.

It may be ageing provocateur Abel Ferrara’s best film since King Of New York, but the film belongs to Depardieu. Like that painting of Kramer in Seinfeld, he is a loathsome, offensive brute, yet you can’t look away.