Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, 2014)

tumblr_nb2n1hY6ET1qcoaf4o1_500Abel Ferrara’s adaptation of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn story comes to the Grand Illusion in its controversial American release version. Gérard Depardieu is the massive presence in the center (a performance that rivals only Timothy Spall’s in Mr. Turner as the gruntiest of 2014). He’s M. Deveraux, head of an international banking organization and potential future president of France with a prodigious appetite for sex. After an evening of debauchery, which Ferrara shows us in clinical, resolutely unsexy detail for the first 20 minutes or so of the film, Deveraux sexually assaults a hotel maid. He’s caught at the airport and just as exacting detail we follow the process of his arrest, booking and arraignment. The second half of the film, following Deveraux’s release on bail, is almost lyrical, as he and his wife (Jacqueline Bisset) argue over the fallout of what he’s done and what it means for their past and their future. Deveraux, a leftist economist, despite devoting his life to helping the less fortunate, is exposed as no less a Randian egotist than the worst right-wing cartoon: his utterly unshakeable belief in the inviolability of his own self-interest the only guiding principle of his existence. I had expected the film, when I first heard about it, to concern itself with the mystery of the crime itself. A did-he or didn’t-he exploration of the legal system and our attitudes toward powerful men who commit crimes against women. Ferrara, though, ditches all of that. We know he’s guilty right from the beginning, and the film becomes even more darkly political as a result. There’s no balance, no epistemology, no other side of the story: there’s the insular, protected, heedlessly destructive world of the super-rich and powerful (right and left) and everything else is the margin.

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