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Welcome to New York
In Abel Ferrara's Welcome To New York, Gérard Depardieu plays Devereaux, a high ranking French banker based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and in this picture exaggerated to the point where it almost feels like a political cartoon. If you've paid attention to the news over the last few years then you'll know, more or less, how this all plays out.
The movie begins before the highly publicized sexual assault. We spend some time with Devereaux and learn not only of his penchant for sex but also of his ambitions. He's a married man, his wife Simone (Jacqueline Bisset) is not blind to his character flaws, but this doesn't stop him from playing around when and where he feels like it. One time he feels like it happens to be while in New York City, where he forces himself on a hotel maid (Pamela Afesi). This lands him in hot water with the authorities and finds him doing a stint in Riker's Island but he's eventually put under house arrest. It's here that Simone confronts him, and they have some rather heated discussions about all of this.
What's interesting here isn't so much what Ferrara and company are saying (that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is guilty) but how he depicts the man. Depardieu is amazing in the role. He gives a performance that is as bold as it is over the top, portraying Devereaux as a man who feels entitled to whatever he wants. This is setup early in the movie and it's not subtle. He uses his power to take advantage of people and though he talks occasionally about his hatred of politicians, Ferrara lumps him in there with the rest of them. And deservedly so. Strauss-Kahn may have threatened to sue over this film but let's face it, the guy is no angel. Depardieu is a sight to see here (he goes full frontal at one point!), going hog wild with the sex and the drugs and the ridiculous sense of self entitlement that is so strong within his character that when he's first arrested he really seems to have no idea why it's happening.
The setup and the performances from Depardieu and a gracefully aging Bissett are excellent but the movie does lose a bit of steam in its third act when the focus shifts on the various discussions that occur between husband and wife and developments with the legal team set in place to get this guilty man out of the trouble he so foolishly got himself into. It doesn't sink the movie, but the pacing here changes pretty dramatically as Ferrara shifts focus from the debauchery of the first half of the movie to quieter moments. It's a little jarring, actually, and while you need to have these human moments in the film for an audience to relate to, it might have been better to spread them out rather than concentrate on building an ending from them.
The good does outweigh the band by quite a margin, however. The gleefully obscene script is acted out with plenty of style and the movie has visuals to match it at every turn. This is a very handsomely shot film that makes excellent use of some very authentic locations. Ripe with a sterile sort of modern sheen it presents the world that surrounds Devereaux as complacent in many ways. Meaning, people seem completely fine with tolerating the type of insane behavior we see this man, who feels he is untouchable, indulge in simply because he is in a position of great power. In many ways it's almost expected.
Worth noting is that Ferrara famously fought with IFC over their agreement with Wild Bunch to create an R-rated version of the movie. While some have said that it was simply edited to bring down the running time and tone down some of the sex, there's more to it than that. Ferrara has been insistent that the cuts not only tone things down to an R-rated level but that they also interfere with the politics of the picture. In the uncut version there is a scene where Simone mentions her views on Israel that has been taken out of the R cut. Some minor scenes where taken out involving an art gallery. More importantly, however, the scene where the maid is raped plays out as a flashback while she's talking with the NYPD about the events. Ferrara's original version shows it as it happens, removing all doubt as to whether or not the maid is making this up or not. Another flashback scene in which Devereaux attempts to rape an American reporter is also cut from the R-rated version. And unfortunately that's the version that we get on this Blu-ray release from IFC. It runs an hour and forty eight minutes as opposed to the unrated director's cut that clocks in at roughly two hours and five minutes. That means there's a seventeen minute difference between the two versions, and that's substantial.The Blu-ray:
Welcome To New York is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Shot digitally there's obviously no room for print damage here and the nicely authored disc from IFC presents the movie with some really impressive detail and clarity. There is a sort of sanitized look to much of the movie, even the scenes involving graphic sex, but it sort of makes sense that it would have this look once you see the movie. Color reproduction is pretty much perfect and black levels are nice and deep. Skin tones look great and texture and detail are both typically outstanding. There are no obvious compression artifacts and aside from a tiny bit of shimmer here and there, this is a really, really strong picture.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also very strong. Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish. Use of sound is noteworthy here. Simply pay attention to the sounds of Depardieu's breathing in a couple of scenes and listen… take it in and realize how uncomfortable it makes us feel. The way that he speaks and yes, breaths, add to the ‘creep' factor that be brings to this character. There are little audible moments like this scattered throughout the film that sort of sneak up on you and get under your skin and it's all rendered very nicely by way of this lossless mix. Clarity is great, the score is well balanced and the dialogue is easy to understand (once you get used to Depardieu's broken English and heavy accent). An English LPCM 2.0 Stereo track is also included.Extras:
Unfortunately the only extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the feature. Menus and chapter selection are both provided and a few previews for other, unrelated IFC titles play before the main menu screen loads.Final Thoughts:
Welcome To New York isn't perfect but it is damn good. IFC's Blu-ray is really light on extras but it sounds great and looks great too. Unfortunately, this truncated version of the film doesn't represent what the director was going for here and while the movie is good in this form, if you've seen the uncut version (which you can easily import from other territories) you know that it's better in that form. As such, despite the fact that this version isn't a total wash and that the presentation quality is nice, it's tough to recommend. Skip it to make a statement or rent it if you're curious and just want to make do with the easiest version to obtain domestically.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.