And then it happens: A black woman with an African (or West Indian) accent enters a posh Manhattan hotel room and announces herself. There is no reply. The room is a mess—and it must smell of sex, because a rich French banker and his seedy friends spent the previous night defiling several young, beautiful, white prostitutes. The hotel maid is not young, beautiful, or white. She's overweight and middle-aged, and looks like the type of woman who dresses up only on Sunday for church. The banker walks out of the bathroom, sees the maid, lets his towel drop, and then tries to force his dick into her mouth.
Welcome to New York is obviously based on the 2011 case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund, the organization that formed in 1944 to loan money to countries with heavy debts in the post-WWII economic order. By the 1980s, the IMF had evolved into a debt collector and enforcer for the first world. In the film, the Strauss-Kahn character is called Devereaux and is played maybe too convincingly by a portly and mumbly Gérard Depardieu. The banker's wife is Simone, an excellent and eternally glamorous Jacqueline Bisset. As with the real story, the rape allegations are dismissed and Devereaux is free to leave New York.
But as always in films made by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant and King of New York, among many others), the story is only a fraction of the story. Like all devoted Catholics, Ferrara is fascinated by the realism of human fallen-ness. He faces it directly. If you must believe in God, then you must really believe in evil. "No one wants to be saved," says Devereaux late in the film. "No one."
As bad as the rape scene is to witness, the dark questions that follow it are just as disturbing: Why would this man, who is obsessed with youth and whose wealth buys him access to anyone and anything, force himself on an ordinary, not-young woman? Was it to dominate her? Her blackness? Was the act a physical analogue to the economic exploitation his institution visits on third-world countries? Complicating matters is a later scene in which he has (almost) loving sex with a beautiful black woman. How to reconcile his grotesque violence with his recognizable humanity? The answer is simple: Like Brandon (Michael Fassbender) in Steve McQueen's Shame, Devereaux is living in a hell from which there is no salvation.