Welcome to New York Blu-ray Review

      Actors: Gerard Depardieu, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Hipp
  • Director: Abel Ferrara
  • Format: Blu-ray, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • Release Date: August 25, 2015
  • Run Time: 108 minutes


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             Though there have been name changes and we are told several times that the characters within Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York are entirely fictional, the very emphasis on this clarification makes it clear that the filmmaker wants you to know where the narrative inspiration was derived from. Much of the film’s power comes from the reality that the events are based on a widely covered international story about former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose escape from charges of sexual assault against a hotel maid became a clear allegory for the entitlement mentality of the rich and powerful. Ferrara achieves this without glorifying or condemning the actions of its protagonist, making for a film without bias, but which also feels void of any relevant commentary.

     

            Standing in for the Strauss-Kahn character is Gérard Depardieu as sex-addicted international banker, Devereaux, whose brief business trip to New York is filled with extravagance in excess that leads to imprisonment. Split up into sections, the first act of the film unflinchingly portrays the over-indulgence of Devereaux, a man whose arrival to his luxurious Manhattan hotel room is met by prostitutes and drugs. Despite his reputation for business, we primarily see Devereaux’s gluttonous approach to life’s pleasures, whether it be food, alcohol or sex. When faced with the consequences of his actions, his insatiable appetites also extend to a love of power, as Devereaux immediately claims ‘diplomatic immunity’ in an attempt to escape punishment.

     

            The second section of the film focuses on the bleakness of the American prison system as a stark contrast to the life of indulgence, and this is also where Devereaux’s true character is revealed. This is best depicted in a strip search sequence, which exposes the physicality of greed and gluttony in Depardieu’s own over-indulged physique within a world of limitation and restriction. In the third act of the film, these two polarized worlds come crashing together in the court of law, though very little of the running time is actually spent in the trial. Ferrara is more interested in the complacency of Devereaux, whose worries seem to dissipate once his billionaire wife (Jacqueline Bisset) arrives to ‘fix’ the situation.  

     

            Bisset tends to steal most scenes in the second half of the film, primarily because of how passive Devereaux becomes when forced to face his crimes. It is unclear whether Devereaux believes his own claims of innocence or simply knows that wealth and power will inevitably be his savior. Either way, Ferrara is more interested in the battle between justice and the power of wealth than he is judging the actions of the man. Because of this, the film shifts away from character study before a clear understanding of Devereaux’s mentality is offered, and also allows the film to present the narrative without judgment or commentary. While Ferrara’s film lacks the glorification seen in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, it also reaches the end credits without any of the condemnation either.

     

            Ferrara battled IFC Films over their request for an R-rated cut of his film about excess, leading to a falling out with the company. Though this release includes a rated version, I don’t believe it is one that was approved by the director. For one thing, the length has been shortened greatly, no doubt removing many of the scenes of early sexual debauchery. To my knowledge, the unrated director’s cut is unavailable. The Blu-ray release includes only a trailer for special features, as Ferrara was likely unwilling to contribute commentary or interviews for the release.

     

    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 1/10




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