In the early minutes of Welcome to New York, Gérard Depardieu’s performance as a VIP called Devereaux appears designed to elicit a variety of animal comparisons: pig, bear, bull, rhinoceros. His character grunts and wheezes, an overgrown satyr whose sex addiction can’t be satisfied, regardless of how many prostitutes or innocent bystanders fall into his path. Say this for the well-traveled, enormous Depardieu: He’s the most interesting thing about this bizarre film, and he exposes his baser instincts (and his corpulent body) with fearless abandon.
What does it take to get an Abel Ferrara film released today? Of the six features he made since ‘R Xmas in 2001, only 4:44 Last Day on Earth landed a distributor and a limited American release in theaters and on home video.
Ferrara fans – and yes, we’re still out here waiting for Mary and Go Go Tales to get a belated disc release if nothing else – will at least get some satisfaction from the revival and restoration of his grindhouse breakthrough Ms. 45, a femme-centered take on the vigilante revenge films of the seventies by way of Repulsion, written by his longtime collaborator Nicholas St. John and shot in the garment district of 1980 New York.
Zoë Lund (aka Zoë Tamerlis) stars as Thana, a mute young seamstress in a dumpy fashion house who is raped twice in a single afternoon.Lund looks like Nastassja Kinski’s American cousin, with round eyes and full lips and a fragile presence that evolves from a panicked helplessness to an aggressive boldness. “I just wish they would leave me alone,” she writes to a co-worker, yet it seems that every New York male over the age of consent is determined to put the moves on her with a native aggression that sends her spinning into horrific flashbacks.
Until she decides that the best self-defense is an armed offense. Her transition occurs in a few seconds as Thana’s squirrelly demeanor with yet another oily would-be pick-up artist steadies and strengthens and she gives him a hard look that Lund makes into a defining turn with the subtlest shift of expression and body language.