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Welcome to New York
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by Jay Seaver

"Art house arrest."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: That "Welcome to New York" is a long, rambling movie is not in and of itself a bad thing. There are times early on where it's a definite plus as the audience is kind of assaulted with the excesses of M. Devereaux (Gerard Depardieu), and compacting either that our what comes later might change the impact. Ultimately, I wonder what it's about. Who is never in doubt: The movie is based closely enough on the Dominique Strauss-Khan case closely enough to have three screens worth of disclaimers at the front, but pointedly fictionalized in a way that causes it to lose a bit of weight.

Devereaux, an official at the World Bank and potentially the next President of France, has tremendous appetites, especial of the sexual variety, and no conjunctions about indulging them at any time, whether it be with the attractive and accommodating women he has hired for his office in Washington or the escorts he and his traveling companion hire on a trip to New York. The next morning, a hotel maid walks in on him as he's coming out of the shower...

... and cut to Devereaux checking out, creeping his daughter's Canadian boyfriend out with his enthusiastic sex talk that includes speculation about the young couple's activities, and making his way to the plane while the NYPD takes the maid's statement and discovers just how little time they have to arrest him before he does the country. When they do, word reaches Devereaux's wife Simone (Jacqueline Bisset) in the middle of a charity dinner, forcing the publishing heiress to come to America and see to his defense, try to salvage her ambitions for him, and see if her husband realizes just what sort of damage he's done.

The damage he's done to their reputations, of course. The party of the story that could be a Special Victims Unit episode (and was) are resolved off-screen with no notable direct involvement for either Monsieur or Madame Deveraux. The movie is almost entirely about that pair, and as much about who they are as how they respond to this situation. Writer/director Abel Ferrara and co-writer Chris Zios lift a great deal of what is scripted from the DSK court transcripts and let the cast improvise much of the rest, keeping the focus clearly on who these people are without forcing them to work around a lot of events.

And say what you will about this approach, you're unlikely to forget Gerard Depardieu in this movie. He plays Devereaux as if his expensive suits are the only veneer of humanity that this guy has, and that comes of often enough to show him in his raw animal state, grunting with exertion when directed to do something as basic as strip for a search in prison, pacing like an animal in a zoo once locked up, and defiantly refusing to recognize the importance of anything but his own desires, yelling like a petulant child. Even a long monologue at the end when he tries to explain himself is delivered with more aggression than reflection. Depardieu embraces all that is repulsive about this guy without particularly worrying about charm; if you find anything about him sexy or sympathetic, that's on you.

Bisset doesn't exactly play the heroine except by contrast or default, buy she makes an impression too, even if it's not the same animalistic one as Depardieu. There's great joy to be derived from watching Simone light into her husband even if it's for being stupid rather than in the wrong, and if it crosses the line from the completely genuine release of years of frustration to an actress's theatricality, that's not so bad. Her opposing forces aren't necessarily complex - ambition, pride, and expectations of treatment that range from reasonable to entitled - but Bisset does a neat job of letting the audience try and figure out whether they are balanced or if one is dominant.

Even the best performances greatly benefit from being part of the people involved doing something, and that is where this movie becomes a thoroughly mixed bag. The early scenes of Devereaux going through the system, shot where possible with the same locations and people involved with the DSK case, will drag for some but intrigue those curious about the procedures that police procedurals frequently skip over; they're clear-eyed enough to give both an idea of Devereaux's monstrousness and how dehumanizing this system can be. Once Ferrara and company move on to house arrest and Simone's efforts to put a good face on things, though, you've got to really like just watching people inhabit characters and act. This section goes on and on, and while the various scenes are often individually interesting, a lot of the basics repeat, and the cumulative effect is wearing.

Once it reaches the end, it winds up just a look at a man without a conscience who skates because he is rich and powerful, without much to say about the matter beyond the obvious. Some memorable moments wind up on-screen by letting Depardieu and Bisset do their things, but it's a long and rough couple hours if you want more than just detail.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26850&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/18/14 17:54:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Cannes Film Festival For more in the 2014 Cannes Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2014 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/09/14 jim z I feel sorry for Mrs. Bisset 1 stars
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