WELCOME TO NEW YORK directed by Abel Ferrara, written by Ferrara and Christ Zois, with Gérard Depardieu, Marie Moute, Pamela Afesi and Jacqueline Bisset. A Remstar Films release. 124 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (September 5). For venues and times, see Movies.
Abel Ferrara made his name with pictures like King Of New York and Bad Lieutenant - the original one, with Harvey Keitel's penis - so it made perfect sense that he should tackle the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case.
Strauss-Kahn, you may recall, was the managing director of the International Monetary Fund when, in 2011, he was pulled off a plane about to depart from JFK and arrested for sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper at the Sofitel New York. He spent several weeks under house arrest before the case was dropped.
Ferrara's fictionalized version casts Gérard Depardieu as Devereaux, a high-powered player who's also an unapologetic hedonist. In the first half-hour of the movie, he consumes women, drugs and alcohol by the fistful, until he's in such a state that he thinks nothing of forcing himself on a maid (Pamela Afesi).
The second movement deals with the fallout from the assault, as Devereaux attempts to flee the country only to end up arrested and dropped into the prison system. The final third focuses on Devereaux and his wife (Jacqueline Bisset) trapped together in a Tribeca townhouse.
"It's an ugly situation in a lot of ways," says the filmmaker, who's at TIFF this week with his next movie, a biopic starring Willem Dafoe as the director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
"We're talking about people who are in a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, and they create a lot of pain and suffering on the other side. It's supposed to be engrossing, not entertaining."
The director says co-writer Christ Zois and his producers were more interested in a study of corrupted power, not so much in the real-life specifics.
"They didn't spend a lot of time thinking about Strauss-Kahn, I'll tell you that," he says. "It was a good starting-off point for them. I did a lot of research, but they felt they understood the essence of that story and that character. And we worked it, you know? We brought it to the personal, we brought it beyond that - we found a deeper rage."
But Devereaux's rage - and his money and power - is nothing in the face of the implacable New York justice system, which forces him to confront his own impotence by grinding him down with the rest of the skells.
"Riker's Island is a 19th century nightmare no matter how you look at it," says Ferrara. "It doesn't care who the fuck gets there. You think the people out there knew he was the head of the IMF? Do they even know what the IMF is? I don't think they do. I don't think they care."