Jacqueline Bisset Defends Her 'Welcome to New York' Director Abel Ferrara As "Uncompromising"

The director has been battling with IFC Films, which is releasing his new film inspired by the Dominque Strauss-Kahn scandal.

With director Abel Ferrara and distributor IFC Films embroiled in an escalating war of words over the R-rated version of Ferrara’s new film Welcome to New York that is being released in the United States on Friday, Jacqueline Bisset, who stars in the film opposite Gerard Depardieu, is stepping forward to defend the often irascible director, calling him “uncompromising.” In a statement the actress provided The Hollywood Reporter, she said that his film is an important one because it examines “the corruption of power” and “the assumption of sexual privilege by men in power.”

Inspired by the trial of former IMF-head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Welcome to New York stars Depardieu in a much lauded portrayal of Strauss-Kahn’s widely publicized fall from grace after he was accused of raping a hotel maid during a visit to the Sofitel New York Hotel in Manhattan. Depardieu plays a slightly fictionalized version of Strauss-Kahn called Devereux, with Bisset appears as his wife Simone.

Ferrara has charged that the French company Wild Bunch, which helped finance the film, has violated his right to final cut by creating its own R-rated version of the film, which it then supplied IFC Films, which had contracted for an R-rated version for U.S. release. Wild Bunch head Vincent Maraval has responded that Ferrara failed to turn in an R-rated version, which he was contractually obligated to do, and so Wild Bunch created its own edit, which is 17 minutes shorter than Ferrara’s original version, first shown in Cannes last May, outside of the Cannes Film Festival itself.

IFC, for its part, has said it offered Ferrara the opportunity to provide the U.S. distributor with an R-rated cut of his own, but that he declined, and so it accepted Wild Bunch’s version. The dispute escalated with Ferrara calling the version of the film being released stateside “a corporate assault” on “the freedom of the artist” and IFC accusing him of “slinging mud and insults.”

In her statement of support, Bisset acknowledged that the director is someone “with whom you don’t work unless you’re pretty prepared for a raw and truthful ride.”

But while she didn’t weigh in on the merits of the contractual dispute and the differing versions of the film, she argued that the film points to a larger truth, offering “a much broader comment on the world.” In her view, she said, “This film is about the corruption of power, how thoroughly power corrupts at this time in history, the assumption of sexual privilege by men in power (and women too!). Should a film protesting the sexual privilege too often presumed by many top political and financial figures not show how despicable their actions are? Is this the right film to have cut away from the flames in the fireplace? This is about bestial sexual abuse and to disguise its terrible violence is an insult to the women who have endured it.”

Bisset continued, “I believe Gerard [Depardieu] and the film’s writer and director have caught very graphically the degree to which some financial, political, and even military leaders sell out the public trust.” And she concluded, “Working with Abel Ferrara was exciting and respectful, and I’d do it again with pleasure.”

Read Jacqueline Bisset’s full statement:

Finally, Welcome to New York is coming. I’m very happy about it, in spite of all the rumpus which hit, pre The Cannes Film Festival last May, when at the last moment it was not accepted into the official competition, due to endless talk of a sex filled beginning, pitted up with sympathy and the French attitude of protection to the characters that inspired the story.

Mr. Ferrara (the director) with whom you don’t work unless you’re pretty prepared for a raw and truthful ride, fully took his directorial journey, uncompromising in all things.

What became clear was that the film was a much broader comment on the world than the immediate story, which was pretty undefined in the script, a good one, but not an “in stone” one. This film is about the corruption of power, how thoroughly power corrupts at this time in history, the assumption of sexual privilege by men in power (and women too!). Should a film protesting the sexual privilege too often presumed by many top political and financial figures not show how despicable their actions are? Is this the right film to have cut away from the flames in the fireplace? This is about bestial sexual abuse and to disguise its terrible violence is an insult to the women who have endured it.

Gerard Depardieu is quite extraordinary in his character of ‘Deveraux’ and I am good as his wife.

The chemistry was there and the situation was very relatable to as so many of us have experienced a breakdown of a great love. I am convinced that this was a great love. I believe Gerard and the film’s writer and director have caught very graphically the degree to which some financial, political, and even military leaders sell out the public trust. I’m wondering why they’ve gone so Pollyanna on this particular film which has, in the mix, received its own good share of approving reviews and commendations of Gerard’s and my work.

Working with Abel Ferrara was exciting and respectful and I’d do it again with pleasure.

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