Navigate to News section

Strauss-Kahn Sues Film Producer For Defamation

Welcome to New York depicts disgraced IMF chief as boozy, bloated predator

David Mikics
May 20, 2014
Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn enters Manhattan State Supreme Court with his wife Anne Sinclair on August 23, 2011 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) director Dominique Strauss-Kahn enters Manhattan State Supreme Court with his wife Anne Sinclair on August 23, 2011 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In 2011, a New York judge dismissed sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund, several months after a maid at the Sofitel hotel accused him of rape. Now DSK, as he’s widely known, is enmeshed in another legal battle: he’s suing the director Abel Ferrara for defamation.

Ferrara’s lurid new movie Welcome to New York, starring Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset, premiered at Cannes on Saturday to what seems to have been, on balance, a more disgusted than titillated audience (though who can tell the difference anymore). The film is clearly based on the DSK scandal, with Bisset playing Strauss-Kahn’s billionaire wife Anne Sinclair. Ferrara, who is most famous for 1992’s Bad Lieutenant, includes de rigueur scenes depicting DSK’s well-rumored escapades (orgies, bondage, etc.), but he also, shockingly, shows the Dépardieu character sexually assaulting a maid in a hotel. And according to Le Figaro’s Sorin Etienne, Welcome to New York has no shortage of anti-Semitic innuendo. Etienne charged that the film “confounds Jews, power and money” in an article titled “The Foul Anti-Semitism of Welcome to New York.”

DSK’s lawyer, Jean Veil, describes the film as a “crotte de chien” (i.e., dog droppings), and anti-Semitic to boot. Meanwhile, Sinclair published an attack on the film in Sunday’s French HuffPost. “I’m not even going to address its filthiness, which sickens me,” wrote Sinclair. “The constant display of Dépardieu’s body, which is supposed to be audacious, in fact makes you gag.” The makers of the film, Sinclair added, are projecting “their fantasies about Jews and money.”

Sinclair also expressed her disgust with the filmmakers’ implied insult to her grandfather, the famous art dealer Paul Rosenberg, as well as her father, who fought for the Free French. At one point in the movie, Dépardieu needles Bisset by saying, “Everyone knows what your family did during the war … 1945, it was a very good year!” In fact, Rosenberg’s collection of paintings was stolen by the Nazis (works by Matisse, Picasso and Degas are still missing), and he was forced to flee France after the Vichy government took away his citizenship. “The allusions to my family are degrading and defamatory,” wrote Sinclair.

Welcome to New York shows Dépardieu bizarrely snorting like a pig during sex with call girls, speaking terrible English, and in general outdoing the Harvey Keitel of Bad Lieutenant. “He is naked, enormous, monstrous, and in every position,” wrote Etienne.

Charlotte Pudlowski, writing in French Slate, thinks that DSK could win his suit against Ferrara. Last year, DSK sued an ex-girlfriend, the novelist Marcela Iacub, and her publisher, Stock, for invasion of privacy—and won. In her novel Belle et Bête, Iacub described a character based on DSK whose sexual penchants included licking women’s eyelids and spreading marmalade on their torsos, plus the famous pig-grunting. Iacub and Stock were forced to pay 50,000 euros in damages and insert a notice in each copy of the novel proclaiming that the author had committed an invasion of Strauss-Kahn’s privacy. The key factor behind the decision, intellectual property lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat told Pudlowski, is that both the publicity for the novel and some of the details inside it made it clear that it was about DSK, even though Iacub never named him in the book. The same seems to be true of Welcome to New York, so Ferrara should perhaps get ready to pony up.

For those who can’t wait to check out Dépardieu stripping off his Speedo, guzzling champagne, and eating ice cream off women’s bodies, Welcome to New York is available for streaming on French iTunes.

David Mikics is the author, most recently, of Stanley Kubrick (Yale Jewish Lives). He lives in Brooklyn and Houston, where he is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English at the University of Houston.