In case you missed it, Welcome to New York, one of Abel Ferrara’s two 2014 productions (the other being Pasolini), opens March 27 from US distributor IFC Films on VOD and in select cities though not, apparently, curiously, in New York, where most movies open and where its infamous action is set. According to reports on Flavorwire and elsewhere, the IFC Center canceled its run due to threats of violence from or inspired by Ferrara. (His reply: “Those comments were metaphorical. I am an artist and a Buddhist so firebombing theaters is not on my agenda.”) They’d planned to show the same R-rated version edited by worldwide distributor Wild Bunch and disowned by Ferrara that will be available on VOD. Anthology Film Archives reportedly declined an offer to show the director’s uncut version, which premiered at Cannes and is available on Blu-ray in Europe (and online, where Ferrara encourages you to steal it).
Wild Bunch’s replayed trump card is that Ferrara signed a contract guaranteeing an R-rated version, and since he has refused to provide one (“I don’t make R-rated movies,” he says), Wild Bunch feel they were within their rights to slice as they pleased. The fury of Ferrara’s response—comparing the players from IFC and Wild Bunch to Charlie Hebdo shooter-esque assassins of freedom—has to do with the extremity (17 minutes) and unapproved manner of the edits, which, in his view, suggest that a chambermaid’s account of a hotel rape, shown in flashback during a police interrogation, might be fabricated. While Ferrara, never afraid to self-mythologize and manufacture dust-ups, should always be taken with a grain of salt (remember his Werner Herzog-Bad Lieutenant pseudo-dispute?), he has a case, and a comparison of the two versions shows that Wild Bunch went beyond mere trimming of naughty bits to subtle manipulation of authorial intent and political content, if falling short of Ferrara’s claim that their version “condones rape” (it does not).