Welcome to New York, first look Cannes review: Gerard Depardieu adds a sheen to grubby tale inspired by DSK affair

3.00

Welcome to New York screened in a makeshift tent on the beach in Cannes this  weekend. It was a fitting venue for Abel Ferrara’s film, starring Gérard Depardieu as a character inspired by the disgraced French financier Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The official festival wanted nothing to do with such seamy material, which is being released online in France and is unlikely to get much exposure in mainstream cinemas anywhere.

This is a movie of an immense but very grubby pathos. Depardieu plays his character, Mr Devereaux, as a Falstaffian sex addict. He is a man who controls the economic fate of nations but can’t curb his own baser instincts.

The early part of the film plays like a 1970s British sex movie – a Gallic answer to Mary Millington’s Come Play with Me. Devereaux and his friends enjoy mini-orgies. He memorably describes bouillabaisse, the traditional French fish stew, as “a sex party for fish”. His carnal appetites simply can’t be curbed. Ferrara’s roving camera follows him fly-on-the-wall-style as he grunts his way through encounters with multiple partners.

Eventually, Devereaux heads on a business trip to New York. Here, he has the fateful, abusive encounter with the maid that lands him in jail. Back in Paris, his fragrant, very wealthy wife, Simone (Jacqueline Bisset), moves into action to try to secure him bail.

Film launched amid vulgar hype and legal doubts

The scenes of Devereaux’s arrest and imprisonment are filmed in a deadpan, matter-of-fact style that makes them seem all the more grim. One moment, Devereaux is sitting in first class in a plane due to take him home to France. The next, he is lured back into the airport, ostensibly to collect the BlackBerry he left in the hotel room, and his life is falling apart.

Ferrara isn’t much interested in the maid’s tale. Nor does the screenplay (which he co-wrote with Chris Zois) pay much attention to political conspiracy theories. Its main focus is Depardieu himself.

Early on, the financier is so boorish and insensitive that  it is impossible to feel any sympathy for him whatsoever. In one flashback scene, we see him brutally trying to seduce a young female journalist – the daughter of one of his close friends.

Depardieu doesn’t try to ingratiate himself. He shows no charm. We have to take his intellectual brilliance on trust. Nonetheless, his performance is utterly fearless. We see him strip-searched and humiliated by prison guards, jostled by fellow inmates, forced to wear cuffs that cut into his wrists. Once Simone secures him bail and finds him an apartment, the couple argue incessantly in scenes that are semi-improvised. Against the odds, Depardieu is able to give a humanity to his character. “No redemption for me,” he mutters. He is fatalistic and self-destructive.

In the version of the film screened in Cannes, Depardieu appeared as “himself” before the action begins. Looking into the camera defiantly, he talked of his disdain for politicians and his anarchistic instincts. At the end of the film, there are moments when Devereaux stares at the lens in a similarly belligerent fashion. It would be a mistake, though, to see the actor – a sacred monster of French cinema – and his character as reflections of one another.

When Depardieu turned up at the end of the screening, he was far more gracious and self-deprecating than might have been expected. He spoke of the “Shakespearean” way the film deals with “power, sex and money”. Welcome to New York is squalid and joyless fare. Depardieu’s performance doesn’t achieve tragic grandeur but it is far more complex and moving than seemed remotely possible in the orgy scenes that open the movie.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'