When Abel Ferrara‘s Welcome To New York screened in Cannes on Saturday night, Wild Bunch‘s Vincent Maraval was asked about potential lawsuits given the film’s source of inspiration. He responded that the movie was made under American law and had been well vetted by attorneys. But, he tossed out, if anyone wants to “make us publicity, they are welcome.” Looks like he’s getting his way as a lawsuit brews and accusations of anti-Semitism surface.
Welcome To New York is inspired by the 2011 sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Gérard Depardieu, in various instances of near-pornographic debauchery, stars as Mr Devereaux, a high-ranking French government offical who is detained in New York after he sexually assaults a hotel maid. Jacqueline Bisset plays his wife Simone, an heiress to a fortune amassed during World War II and a financial supporter of Israel. On France’s Europe 1 radio this morning, Strauss-Kahn’s attorney Jean Veil said his client has instructed his lawyers “to file a suit for defamation owing to the accusations of rape and insinuations which run throughout the film.” Veil said a suit would be filed within a few days, but that Strauss-Kahn had not, and will not, see the movie based on the recommendations of friends that he “protect himself.” He added that he agreed with Strauss-Kahn’s ex-wife Anne Sinclair who on Sunday called the film “anti-Semitic.”
An editorial penned by Sinclair, who is now editor of the French version of the Huffington Post, expressed her disgust at several things in the movie. They included Depardieu’s nudity, the “lousy” dialogue, how women are represented, and “especially the so-called face-off between Devereaux and Simone upon which the filmmakers project their fantasies about money and Jews.” The long scene comes near the end of the film when charges against Devereaux are dropped and he accuses his wife of being obsessed with money and power. Sinclair is the granddaughter of Paul Rosenberg, a renowned art dealer who escaped from the Nazis and was stripped of his French nationality by the Vichy government. “The allusions to my family during the war are degrading and defamatory. They say the opposite of what happened,” she wrote. “I never thought I would have to defend today their memory faced with such clearly anti-Semitic attacks.”
Ferrara told AFP today that he is not anti-Semitic. “I hope not. I was brought up by Jewish women,” he said. He also told the news agency that he did not defame Sinclair’s father. “He was not a collaborator. He was almost killed by the Gestapo. He was completely the opposite. He was very nearly killed like six million Jews.” Wild Bunch has not responded to a request for comment.