EIFF film review: Welcome to New York (18)

THIS year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival seems to have a fairly loose definition of the word “premiere” if Welcome to New York is anything to go by.

Gerard Depardieu stars in Welcome to New York. Picture: Getty
Gerard Depardieu stars in Welcome to New York. Picture: Getty
Gerard Depardieu stars in Welcome to New York. Picture: Getty

Welcome to New York

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset, Drena De Niro

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: * *

A late addition to the programme, Abel Ferrera’s controversial new film made its UK debut at the festival last weekend, but after it was confirmed that star Gérard Depardieu would be attending its second screening this coming Saturday, a press release promptly went out announcing this showing as the UK premiere. Sadly all the hoopla isn’t really worth it – unless the prospect of seeing M. Depardieu in the flesh – as opposed to just seeing his flesh (of which there is a lot on display in the film) – floats your boat.

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A fictional account of a disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn-like financier, the film casts Depardieu as Mr Devereaux, a man whose monstrous sexual appetites extend to office orgies, call girl spanking sessions and lurid lunchtime conversations with his own daughter about her sex life. Gliding through his gilded world with the guileless look of a kid at Christmas, Devereaux – who’s on the verge of announcing his candidacy for the French presidency – consumes everything put in front of him and Ferrara spends the first half of the film pretentiously exposing Devreaux’s moral bankruptcy by letting his camera rove with grim documentary realism over flesh both nubile (most of the young female cast) and gnarly (Depardieu).

He maintains this style as Devereaux sexually assaults a maid in a New York hotel room – an incident that lands Devereaux in jail where his bemused attitude to the seriousness of the crime is supposed to serve as its own indictment of the permissive culture of high finance in which he’s been embedded for much of his working life. Alas, Ferrara is too intent on labouring this point in the film’s second half as Devreaux is put under house arrest and castigated by his wealthy, power-hungry wife (Jacqueline Bisset) for derailing their plans for political office. Their dreary exchanges are interspersed with flashbacks detailing the pathological extent of his perversions, as well as soliloquies about his unwillingness to repent. Thematically, the film plays like an inverse Bad Lieutenant here, as Devereaux actively embraces his spiritual corruption. Yet Welcome to New York has none of that film’s raw power. Like Depardieu’s let-it-all-hang-out performance, it exposes everything while revealing nothing.

• Welcome to New York screens at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 28 June. For times and tickets see: edfilmfest.org.uk