Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Chris Zois’ Welcome To New York, inspired by the 2011 sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had its world premiere here in Cannes tonight. Once thought to be a candidate for an Official Selection berth, it instead unspooled in an unofficial capacity inside a tent erected at Nikki Beach (see NSFW trailer below). Stars Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset were on hand for a post-screening press conference about the film that has made headlines ever since it was first floated as a project — and more so now due to an unconventional release plan. Depardieu plays Mr Devereaux, a man who handles billions of dollars a day, controls the economic fate of nations, and dreamed of saving the world but cannot save himself. Bisset plays his wife, Simone. The characters are inspired by Strauss-Kahn and Anne Sinclair. The former was famously alleged in May 2011 to have sexually assaulted a New York hotel employee, but charges were ultimately dropped. Sinclair is a French journalist and heiress from whom the former IMF chief is now divorced.
Although the film comes with a disclaimer at the beginning, there are clear parallels between Devereaux and Strauss-Kahn. Asked if they were concerned about lawsuits, Vincent Maraval, co-founder of production, finance and sales company Wild Bunch, said 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”. The movie begins with some pretty debauched sex scenes that show Devereaux partying with a coterie of men and women in a hotel suite — they are not for the faint of heart. Depardieu called the subject matter reminiscent of Shakespearian tragedy. He said he was shocked when he saw the film because some of the sex was very violent, but he tried not to pin the characters to “right or wrong.” Devereaux’s character “knows he is sick. … I didn’t want to ask too many questions.” Ferrara also said he was “not making a judgment” with the film. When he showed it to Bernardo Bertolucci recently, the veteran Italian helmer remarked it reminded him of a Warhol film. “It is what it is,” Ferrara said. For those who might consider some of the footage borderline porn, Depardieu cautioned to laughter: “It’s not porno at all. To be porno, you have to see the big dick.” Spoiler alert: There is a scene in which Depardieu’s private parts are exposed, but it’s during a strip search inside a stark prison, so not exactly sexy. (more…)