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US actress and director Eva Longoria poses as she arrives for the screening of the film ‘Saint-Laurent’ at the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 17. (AFP)
DSK-inspired movie gets premiere ‘Fiction taken from reality’

CANNES, France, May 18, (Agencies): It was the talk of the town. Abel Ferrara’s highly-anticipated movie inspired by the sordid sex scandal that brought down IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn got its world premiere Saturday in Cannes. Far from being shown in one of the big, plush theatres in the festival hall, the film starring Gerard Depardieu as a man with striking similarities to “DSK”, whose alleged 2011 sexual assault on a New York hotel maid shook the world, was screened in a small, local cinema. “Do you know who I am?” read the poster advertising the film “Welcome to New York”, as a handcuffed, suited man seen from behind faced flashing photographers with the gleaming lights of New York in the background. The premiere of the film by US director Ferrara during the Cannes Film Festival had caused a scrum among film buffs and journalists alike, all keen to get hold of one of the 500 seats available in the cinema.

At a press conference after the film, Depardieu said the film was a “unique adventure because it’s drawn from a news item that everyone has read”. “Power, money, sex, there’s everything from a Shakespearian tragedy,” he told reporters alongside Ferrara and his co-star Jacqueline Bisset. The start of Ferrara’s film states that it is inspired by a court case but it has been widely seen as a fictionalised account of the downfall of a man who was once a strong contender to become president of France. Strauss-Kahn was arrested in May 2011 as he boarded a plane in New York heading back to Paris, and was forced to live under house arrest for weeks after posting $1 million bail. Criminal charges in the case were eventually dropped and at the end of 2012, Strauss-Kahn settled a civil suit brought by the maid by paying her undisclosed damages, which reportedly exceeded $1.5 million.

The film portrays the downfall of a powerful man whose high sex drive has made him sick, and there is no shortage of explicit sex scenes. Ferrara races through the case itself and ends up devoting a lot of time to the conversations taking place after the scandal erupted between Devereaux and his wife Simone, played by Bisset. “Ferrara does... certain things that are very documentary-style,” Scott Foundas, chief film critic for entertainment-industry magazine Variety, told AFP.

“He actually has some of the real police from the actual case playing the cops in the movie and he also films in the real apartment in downtown New York where DSK and (then wife) Anne Sinclair were living during the house arrest period. “So in that sense, there are some things that are very much taken from reality.” Producer Vincent Maraval said there had been no reaction so far by Strauss-Kahn or Sinclair, who are now divorced.  Asked whether he was worried about any potential legal consequences, Maraval said the film was a US production and therefore came under US law. “We consulted every necessary lawyer, the lawyers saw the film, they saw the script, and they granted us an insurance, which means that the film has no legal problems,” he said.

Acclaimed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Depardieu has become as famous in recent years for his off-screen antics as for his performing talents. The star announced in November 2012 that he was moving abroad after President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government sought to impose a 75-percent tax rate on annual incomes over one million euros ($1.37 million). He took up residency in Belgium and was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. The decision sparked controversy, as have his friendships with Putin and Chechnya’s strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Initial reactions to the film were mixed, but many critics and viewers lauded Depardieu’s performance as a superb return to form.

“I think that Depardieu’s performance is fantastic, and the film is very interesting,” French director Claude Lelouch said after the screening. US actor Mickey Rourke, meanwhile, said it was Ferrara’s best film.
“And in particular, there is Gerard’s courage as an actor. I think he has more courage than any other living actor today,” he said. But other viewers were less complimentary. “It’s beyond bad, it’s embarrassing, it’s in bad taste,” one person said.
His surviving gay lover Pierre Berge didn’t want this film to see the light of day.

But on Saturday, the controversial, no-holds-barred story of one of the 20th-century’s greatest fashion designers, Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, screened in competition at Cannes.  The two-and-a-half hour feature examines how the late, great couturier’s life was torn apart by casual sex and drugs and depicts his charged relationship with a third man, Jacques de Bascher, who died of AIDS in 1983.
It’s little wonder the movie ruffled 83-year-old Berge’s feathers. Director Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent” is a dark and sexually explicit movie, featuring Gaspard Ulliel, who lost weight and bared all to play the title role, and Louis Garrel in the role of Jacques. It’s the second feature film on the legendary designer with the dark rimmed spectacles in less than six months. Unlike the first authorized film by Jalil Lespert, the Bonello project was publicly opposed Saint Laurent’s surviving life and business partner, Berge.

Scenes of full nudity, drug use litter the film, spliced with contrasting scenes of the precision of the fashion atelier. The producer says the film was made not to attack Berge but to represent the truth behind the softly-spoken creator of the “Le Smoking,” who remains one of fashion world’s most enigmatic figures. “This film was never intended to be against him (Berge),” said the film producer Eric Altmayer. “Our ambition since the beginning was to make a film simply on Saint Laurent. The fact there was this second film liberated us from the constraints of a traditional biopic, to go deeper into the truth.” Almost peripheral in the movie are references to Saint Laurent’s artistic impact as one of the most mold-breaking designers of the 20th century, a man who irreversibly liberated women’s fashion during the 1960s sexual revolution.

Instead the designer is seen near death, frail, undignified and ravaged by pill abuse. In one of the strongest scenes, his beloved French Bulldog, Moujik, dies after munching though the myriad pills that have been scattered on the designer’s floor as he passes out. The director was refused rights to use YSL clothing in the filming. But during the press conference, the producer said being shunned by the establishment can spur creativity. “We had access to nothing, nothing at all not even a shirt, so everything you see in the film was recreated,” said Altmayer. “Fantastic work was done.”

The Associated Press is all over the Cannes Film Festival — from its glitzy premieres to the celeb parties and quirky moments in between. Here’s what reporters have seen and heard:

Look of the day: Salma Hayek
With a fuchsia strapless dress that accentuated her voluptuous figure, Salma Hayek was already guaranteed to turn heads on the Cannes red carpet.
So she used the opportunity to draw attention to a crisis — the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls. The Oscar-nominated actress carried a sign with the hashtag “Bring Back Our Girls” as she walked in front of a throng of cameras to a preview of her animated film “The Prophet” on Saturday.
The “Bring Back Our Girls” slogan has been used across social networks. Notable figures including US first lady Michelle Obama have posed with the message to urge the return of the girls, taken hostage by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram a month ago.

Spandau Ballet draws crowd
We know this much is true: People still love Spandau Ballet.
The British pop group had an eager crowd singing along as they performed a brief acoustic set in a setting that overlooked the beach.
“We’re in bloody Cannes! We have a film!” shouted Tony Hadley as he sang the band’s hits with guitarist Steve Norman, including its most famous song, the 1980s smash “True.”
The last Friday night performance was to promote their new documentary, “Soul Boys of the Western World.” This is not the first time it’s been at a festival: In March, the film showed at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Depardieu reads ‘Prophet’ poetry
Gerard Depardieu is in Cannes for a screening of his hotly anticipated film “Welcome To New York,” about disgraced former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Khan, but also was on hand to support Hayek for her film “The Prophet.”
The actor read a poem from the classic book by Khalil Gibran, on which Hayek’s animated film is based.
Depardieu read the selection at a preview of the film, which is not in competition at the festival. The preview included several clips and Hayek, the film’s producer, introduced each of the film’s segment directors.
Depardieu’s film — also not in competition — is among the more anticipated of the festival. It tells the story of Strauss-Kahn, accused of raping a hotel worker during a stay in New York. He was never charged but scandal engulfed him as other accusations were made.

Unauthorized “Saint Laurent” screens
Yves Saint Laurent’s surviving lover Pierre Berge didn’t want director Bertrand Bonello’s unauthorized biopic of the fashion icon to see the light of day.
But the AP’s Thomas Adamson reports that “Saint Laurent,” a controversial, no-holds-barred story of one of the 20th century’s greatest designers, screened in competition at Cannes on Saturday.
The two-and-a-half hour feature examines how the late, great couturier’s life was torn apart by casual sex and drugs and depicts his charged erotic relationship with a third man, Jacques de Bascher, who died of AIDS in 1983.

Quickquote: Baruchel’s ‘Star Wars’
“You can spend your entire career and never be part of something that’s half as an important as ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ We all knew it was a good movie, but I don’t know if any of us expected to it be a global phenomenon. There’re people that adore this movie in the four corners of the worlds. That’s insane. I feel like I lucked out. This is my ‘Star Wars.’” — Actor Jay Baruchel, who broke out on Judd Apatow’s television series “Undeclared” and is known for comedy hits like “Knocked Up” and “This is the End,” on spending about seven years in the “Dragon” franchise.

‘Wild Tales’ a hit
The six darkly satirical stories that compose the Argentine romp “Wild Tales” added up to a breakout hit at the Cannes Film Festival. With the film’s producer, Pedro Almodovar, looking on, Argentine director Damian Szifron emphatically arrived in Cannes on Saturday as a new comic voice with his “Wild Tales,” a romp of blown tempers and extreme revenge. Each tale spirals explosively from an initially slight encounter: A demolition engineer’s car is unjustly towed; a driver flips off another on a desolate road; a bride sees her groom flirt with a wedding guest. All gradually descend into mayhem.

Ora soaks it in
Rita Ora has been to Cannes before, but she can’t tell you much about it because it felt like a blur.
“I’ve never been to Cannes properly. I’ve been one time to perform, and then I left, so I never really experienced it,” she said. The 23-year-old British singer was back to perform Friday night for an intimate party thrown by Belvedere Vodka. But this time around she was hoping to get a chance to enjoy more of the Riviera. “I want to enjoy myself. We’re going to kind of get down, because we’re in Cannes,” she said before performing a selection of her hits including “Hot Right Now.”

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