Dominique Strauss-Kahn is raring to sue over a new thinly veiled biopic on the disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief’s downfall.
Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York” débuted in Cannes on Saturday night, craftily siphoning limelight from the famous film festival that didn’t select it. The two-hour feature was released simultaneously online-only in Strauss-Kahn’s native France.
DSK’s supporters didn’t mince words about their impression of the film. His lawyer on Monday called the movie a “piece of shit.” And despite the production’s best efforts to couch its Cannes snub and unusual VOD-only French release in conspiracy theory, French critics have a better explanation: the movie just isn’t very good.
“Welcome to New York” is told in three loose parts:
First, a long and plodding soft-core romp showing the lecherous indulgence and impunity enjoyed by one Mr. Devereaux (Gérard Depardieu), complete with ludicrous bestial grunting and Cialis-cognac-and-ice-cream milkshakes.
Then, after unambiguously forcing himself upon a black immigrant chambermaid in suite 2806 of a tony New York hotel, an incredulous Devereaux is arrested, perp-walked, and imprisoned.
Last, Devereaux, granted bail, holes up with his wife, Simone, (Jacqueline Bisset) until criminal charges ultimately are dropped.
The latter chapter, in particular, is a schlocky letdown. It was filmed in the real $50,000-a-month Tribeca townhouse that Strauss-Kahn and his wife, Anne Sinclair, rented back in 2011. But Bisset and Depardieu are unrealistically and inexplicably left to improvise the couple’s marital disputes in English, despite Depardieu’s impressionistic handle on the language.
“It’s like a dog turd,” said Strauss-Kahn counsel Jean Veil on Europe 1 radio Monday. “Usually, you try to go around it to not step in it because it sticks to your shoe sole. Here, you are obligated to see it, in any case if you are Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer.”
DSK himself, meanwhile, has not seen the movie. “He will not see it,” Veil says. “Friends, people close to him, his lawyers, have advised him to protect himself, to not watch this abominable film.”
A defamation suit is due to be filed in the coming days over what Veil says are rape accusations and insinuations leveled by the film. Indeed, the attack scene in “Welcome to New York” appears to side squarely with Times Square Sofitel chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo, leaving no ambiguity over who the incident’s victim was, despite the fact that criminal charges later were dropped.
The filmmakers’ precautions—name changes, an onscreen disclaimer warning the film is fiction based on fact—are moot, Veil suggests, when their media interviews make clear the real subject is DSK.
On Sunday, Anne Sinclair declared she wouldn’t give the film team the satisfaction of a lawsuit. The editor-in-chief of France’s iteration of the Huffington Post, who has since separated from Strauss-Kahn, spelled out her “disgust” with the movie in a short column. She calls Gérard Depardieu’s frequent nudity gag-inducing, the dialogue “pathetic and grotesque.” She calls shady allusions about her family “defamatory and degrading,” and “clearly anti-Semitic.”
Indeed, the film paints Sinclair as a money- and power-hungry devotee of Israel whose family fortune was ill-gotten during World War II. In fact, Sinclair’s grandfather, Paul Rosenberg, was a Jewish art dealer close to Picasso, forced to flee Nazi-occupied France for New York; her father fought with the Free French Forces. (Sinclair published a well-documented book on the subject in 2012.)
“I won’t give Messieurs Ferrara and [producer Vincent] Maraval the pleasure of suing them,” Sinclair wrote Sunday. “They’ve said it: That’s just what they are waiting for. I don’t sue filth, I vomit it.”
The poo- and puke-based reviews from the real-life Strauss-Kahns might have been expected. But French critics have been almost as scatologically inclined. After all, the production had raised expectations like a Cialis milkshake. But the film didn’t deliver on the bombastic pre-film hype and the critiques exude a sort of resentment.
Reviews seemed to range a short spectrum between turnip (a dud, in the French parlance) and not-a-complete-turnip. France’s iteration of Slate called it “boring” and suggests the spectacular fanfare—the production did reportedly distribute monogrammed peignoirs and S&M kits at the post-launch beach party—was smoke and mirrors to distract from the film’s mediocrity.
The weekly L’Express said Cannes did the “very bad film” a favor by not selecting it, arguing it would have “for sure been massacred by thousands of festivalgoers.” The left-leaning Libération likewise said this “indigent and dubious soft-porn” movie would have been “booed and eviscerated” at Cannes. And the right-leaning Le Figaro said the film “wavers between an animal documentary on the sex lives of beasts and a cheap porno,” while lambasting its “nauseating anti-Semitism.”
Stay tuned for the sequel, coming soon to a French courthouse.