So the ultimate politico-economic-media earthquake of the young 21st century remains the (poisonous) gift that keeps on giving. What a raw nerve Abel Ferrara, of King of New York and Bad Lieutenant fame, has now been able to strike.
An “outraged” Dominique Strauss-Kahn, aka DSK, is going to sue the producers of Welcome to New York, the movie inspired by the epic 2011 scandal that effectively terminated his career as head of the International Monetary Fund and possible future president of France.
The beauty of it is that Ferrara’s soft porn spectacular is no more than a “fictionalized version”; “Devereaux” (Gerard Depardieu) stands for fallen Master of the Universe DSK and “Simone” (Jacqueline Bisset) for his multi-millionairess wife Anne Sinclair. Still, DSK’s lawyerly bunch has been adamant in reminding Ferrara that their client was duly cleared by the US justice system of the charge of sexual aggression on a Guinean employee of the Sofitel New York in 2011.
DSK’s former wife Sinclair, for her part, is publicly “vomiting” her “disgust” for Ferrara’s alleged “anti-Semitism” (too much of a stretch) and misogyny (more plausible). Yet she won’t sue. As even the Mars rover knows, the whole judicial bordello was confidentially settled by the end of 2012.
Gotta love the current hysteria-cum-PR blitz though – which somewhat mirrored the real thing back in 2011. (See Sex, power and American justice, Asia Times Online, May 19, 2011.) Welcome to New York had its mega-hyped world premiere on the margins of the Cannes Film Festival this past Saturday – under a tent on Nikki Beach, in front of the legendary Carlton, followed by a Depardieu press conference where he even quoted Shakespeare.
The shenanigans also featured a good, old-fashioned newspaper war. Le Monde got the scoop, watching the movie ahead of anyone else (and they loved it). Liberation hated it. And Le Figaro, not to be outdone, denounced “nauseous anti-Semitism”; Simone shows her Anne Sinclair avatar is shown to be an obsessive power woman, actively helping the state of Israel “with devotion and love” and coming from a family that made a dodgy fortune during World War II (one of Deveraux/Depardieu’s best lines is “1945 was a good year”).
Real life, meanwhile, is now sweet again for the former power couple. Sinclair is back in the limelight editing the French branch of the Huffington Post. And DSK showed up a few days ago on France 2 network pontificating about politics and economics.
It’s no secret in Paris that Sinclair and her lawyer army did everything in their power to stop this movie in its (troubled) tracks. Ferrara complained that no French producer dared to invest a single euro, using the escape route that this was “too political.” Worse: French bankers, according to him, are Sinclair’s “friends.”
Welcome to New York cost a mere US$3 million; half from production company Wild Bunch and the rest from a consortium of private investors led by Depardieu, plus half a million dollars of tax credit from New York City. Cheap? No doubt, in more ways than one.
It’s no wonder something so volatile would never be shown officially in competition in politically correct Cannes, with or without ultra-connected Sinclair trying to prevent it. So in the end what do you get by renting Welcome to New York for seven euros, or around US$10, on a wealth of video-on-demand platforms in France and, for the moment, only a few other European countries?
You get a sex machine – without the James Brown swing. Forget about the reportedly brilliant intellect of DSK/Devereaux, the man who would be president. For Ferrara – who had to re-cut the movie – this is naked sex as naked power, no intermediaries. Or sex as politics by someone who never read Foucault.
Unidimensional as it is, the whole thing is still gripping because of Depardieu’s astonishing performance. He incarnates the ultimate power broker as outsized pig (there’s a Pasolini touch about it), growling, grunting and snorting, screwing – or at least trying to – anything that moves and barely managing a few sentences in “Franglais” spiced with a lot of mashed-potato English. The frenzy also begs the question; how come a growling pig gets to become the head of the IMF?
The sexual confrontation involving the Sofitel Afro-Muslim housekeeping lady – one of the most fantasized scenes in the modern annals of gossip – lasts barely a minute on screen. Immediately afterwards, Devereaux goes to lunch with his daughter and her Canadian fiance, describing a bouillabaisse as “a sex party with the fish.”
Ferrara, though, should not be taken at face value. He’s way more subversive than that. Simone/Sinclair is indeed depicted as a nonchalant metaphor for the absolute power of money capable of corrupting absolutely anything.
In one of the very few dramatic exchanges in the whole movie, DSK/Devereaux complains it was always her dream for him to become president (“I am not capable”); moreover, she only accomplished one thing after all those years: to force him to hate himself. What’s implied is that the poor boy was always escaping the boot of an imperial Mom by acting like a larger-than-life pig for which every woman is a whore. And then the sociopath would be back to Mommy all over again.
During the go-go 1980s, Baudrillard famously asked, “What are you doing after the orgy?” Ferrara answers in the Instagram era with a sequential instagram of Depardieu’s obese, flaccid body pushed to the limit, exposed, decomposed and discarded by the society of spectacle. Quite the down and dirty allegory of these tawdry, trashy, futile times.