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


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
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power