Abel Ferrara’s vivacious and scandalous new film Welcome to New York possesses an intense sexual energy that’s largely been absent from movies in recent years. Yes, sex is constantly on display in the movies, but this film resonates with a fierceness that feels exciting and troubling all at once. It plays like a great companion piece to The Wolf of Wall Street in the sense that the audience is asked to spend time with a morally questionable (and at times reprehensible) lead character who then starts to show his human façade when his carefully constructed universe starts crashing down all around him. In one of the best performances I’ve seen in recent memory, Gerard Depardieu is absolutely animalistic as a composite version of IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who famously was arrested after being accused of sexual assault by a hotel employee while staying in New York. Ferrara and co-writer Christ Zois (the two have co-scripted four films together) clearly based this explosive and highly erotic film around the debauched exploits of Strauss-Kahn even though Depardieu’s character goes by a different name, that of Devereaux. We watch as his marriage to his long suffering wife, played with pent up anger and hostility by a fantastic Jacqueline Bisset, starts to suffer more than it ever has; the scenes between Depardieu and Bisset sting with a Cassavetes-style rawness that speaks to the honesty of the dialogue and the clarity of the direction. Shot by longtime Ferrara collaborator Ken Kelsch, the film has a seductive but never garish visual style, with the moneyed locations befitting the high-rolling lifestyles on display, while Kelsch’s camera seems positively enamored by all of the nubile naked flesh on display. Because make no mistake – this is a film that loves cinematic sexuality, with Depardieu involved in any number of trysts with any number of participants, portraying a man with a boundless sexual appetite that would finally become his downfall. The procedural aspects after he’s arrested are fascinating, there’s a bit with Depardieu having to strip down for a prison-style body search that has some of the most unflattering nudity that I can think of (which also further underscores the personal humiliation of the character), and the final shot of the movie is coldly brilliant, and very similar to Wolf of Wall Street, informing everything that’s come before while making a comment on the future. If you’re interested in seeing this film in the manner that the filmmakers intended, the only way to do that (legally, of course) is to purchase the Region 2 Blu-ray, which has an “Alternative Cut,” which should really be marketed as a “Director’s Cut,” because from what I’ve read, Ferrara was none too pleased with what happened to his film after production had ended. He’s always been a challenging, ballsy, in-your-face filmmaker (my favorites, along with this one, include King of New York, Bad Lieutenant, The Funeral, and Body Snatchers), and Welcome to New York demonstrates that after more than 30 feature films, he’s lost none of his wild, provocative edge.


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