An American movie made in French about one of the most talked-about French politicians of modern times will appear this week – but not in French cinemas.
The film will be one of the great events at the Cannes International Film Festival starting on Wednesday, even though it has been excluded from the official programme.
Welcome to New York, starring Gérard Depardieu, tells the story of a French politician who is accused of the attempted rape of a chamber maid in a Manhattan hotel room. Any resemblance to real events and living persons from precisely three years ago is entirely deliberate.
Vincent Maraval, the producer of the much-awaited film on the “affaire DSK”, claimed on Sunday that the French “political and media” elite had conspired, unsuccessfully, to block the making of the movie.
The two-hour film, which cost €3m (£2.45m) to make, has been funded mostly by American money, including an investment by the City of New York. Even though the production company, Wild Bunch, is French, the movie counts as American – probably the first American movie to be made in the French language. The director, Abel Ferrara, is American.
It will be given its world première at midnight on Friday, in a private showing on the beach in Cannes and a simultaneous pay-to-view release for €7 on video-on-demand sites. It will appear in cinemas in other countries, including the UK, at a date yet to be announced.
The French media suggest that the producers decided to short-circuit French cinemas and go straight to the internet for legal reasons. They feared that Mr Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers might try to block the showing of the film.
Mr Maraval rejects this explanation. “We realised it was the perfect film to experiment with this type of release,” he told the American magazine Variety.
“We’ll get to target the widest possible audiences at a faster pace, with a smaller investment… and preserve some kind of curiosity around the movie before the press starts unveiling what’s in it.”
In his interview yesterday, however, Mr Maraval blasted the French political, TV and movie establishment. “No French TV station wanted to finance us,” he said.
“Everyone warned us not to make this film, both our friends and our enemies.”
He said that the “incestuous relationship” between “media and political elites” in France made it impossible to make films about “current affairs”.
Depardieu, who put some of his own money into the film and accepted a low fee of €100,000, plays a DSK-like figure called “Deveraux”. His wife is played by Jacqueline Bisset. Four other well-known actresses turned down the project.
The film broadly follows the events of exactly three years ago. A French economics professor becomes a politician, backed by his wife’s millions. He is arrested in New York after being accused of the attempted rape of a chamber maid.
In real life, the charges against DSK were dropped. He admitted publicly that he had committed a “moral fault” and settled a civil suit brought by the chambermaid, Nafissatou Diallo.