Arnaud Desplechin’s ‘Deception’ – Deadline

Arnaud Desplechin returns to the Cannes Film Festival with Deception (Tromperie), a self-indulgent Philip Roth adaptation that’s solely marginally higher than 2017’s derided Ismael’s Ghosts. One of many late Roth’s most brazenly private novels, it particulars a string of affairs carried out by Jewish-American author “Philip,” right here performed by French actor Denis Podalydes, talking French. In clearly delineated chapters, he ruminates on a long-term affair with an English actress (Léa Seydoux). Often known as The English Lover, she additionally speaks French. We’ve seen sufficient movies the place German characters communicate with heavily-accented English, for instance, so this selection feels excusable. Nevertheless it does undermine the script’s many references to cultural id. Maybe it’s meant to play with them, however because the chapters put on on and extra lovers are revealed, this begins to really feel increasingly like a French movie made by Woody Allen, and never in a great way.


Roth’s writing is lauded for its wit and perception, however tailored by Desplechin and Julie Peyr, that doesn’t at all times translate nicely to the large display screen. Characters narrate their actions in a mannered, literary fashion, analyzing sexual conduct from a POV that feels outdated at finest.

Feminine characters conform to varied stereotypes on this Cannes Premiere choice: Rebecca Marder is a brilliant, lovely younger pupil whose psychological well being issues are mined for humor whereas she’s additionally being sexualized. She says her issues stem from selecting the fallacious males, however that Podalydes’ Philip wasn’t one among them. A lover who could also be dying of most cancers (Emmanuelle Devos) is consistently ready by the hospital cellphone for Philip to name and luxury her. Not less than she has a reputation, Rosalie. Anouk Grinberg is simply The Spouse, and when she discovers her husband’s ebook of erotic affair notes, you form of want she’d hit him over the top with it. However no. They’ve an extended, wordy dialog — what else? Desplechin additionally consists of Roth’s chapter wherein he’s accused of sexist crimes in a courtroom of offended feminists, a meta second that comes throughout as defensive and cussed.

Seydoux’s English Lover is given barely more room and company, and she or he has her justifiable share of witty traces. There’s an amusing scene wherein she and Philip take turns to ask one another private, direct questions — he notes them all the way down to be answered at a later date, that we by no means see. It’s a vigorous trade that has extra power than lots of the movie’s extra naval-gazing moments, as she and Philip focus on demise, intercourse and the politics of getting an affair.

When the dialog strays to literature, it’s extra partaking, together with The Scholar’s tackle Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. In truth, an image of Kafka hangs in Philip’s examine, the place he conducts his affairs. Some conversations happen in different, ornamental places, from theatrical units to mysteriously empty London pubs — this was filmed throughout lockdown, to be honest. All of the departments do job, from forged to costumes to cinematography this has the sheen of arthouse class. Nevertheless it doesn’t have the depth you’d hope for.

Whereas partly impressed by present restrictions, Desplechin has resurrected a dinosaur of a venture that’s something however present in relation to its sexual politics. However even placing that apart, it’s the story of a personality who’s self-obsessed and self-important, sleeping with somebody who mirrors all that again to him — which, after an hour or so, isn’t all that attention-grabbing.

Cannes Review: Arnaud Desplechin’s ‘Deception’


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