Based on the 1990 novel of the same name, “Deception” is centered on, of all things, an abrasive, yet celebrated American writer named Philip Roth (Denis Podalydès), who has moved to London despite his belief in , that the city is completely populated by anti-Semites. The bulk of the story revolves around his affair with an unnamed and unhappily married English actress (Léa Seydoux). In order not to get you too excited about that view, most of their time together consists of post-coital conversations where well-known thematic troops from Roth begin to come out and we are often left to wonder what the exact nature of their relationship after all can be. But when she’s not around, there are other women Philip can talk to or think about, including an old friend in America who dies of cancer, a former student of his with whom he once had an affair, and a Czech woman. he met during the hectic days of the Prague Spring in 1968. Oh yes, there is also Roth’s wife who discovers a notebook in which he tells a long story about the actress and becomes convinced that his word’s passion must mean he has an affair – he does not write or talk like that about her anymore. He claims that the woman is nothing more than a fabrication of his literary imagination and that she should just relax.
“Deception” was directed and co-written by the famous French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin, who has long hoped to adapt Roth’s book. Given his apparent admiration for the source and the fact that a number of his films have used some of the same thematic concerns as Roth’s oeuvre, it seems to be an ideal match between filmmaker and material, and it is therefore confusing to see it go like this. wrong in so many ways. As you may recall, “Deception” takes place in London, and the two main characters are an American and an Englishman. But despite all this, the film is in French and cast exclusively with French actors, a trait that inevitably eliminates any of the cross-cultural attitudes and conflicts between the characters in the original story. If Desplechin and co-author Julie Peyr had simply made the two characters French and filtered Roth’s concerns through a different cultural lens, it could have been interesting. On the other hand, if the film just started doing this without making it known, we in the audience could have just grown to accept the conceit, like how we accept that all the Russians suddenly speak English in “The Hunt for Red October “. “But this film continues to have Roth and his lover referring to their nationalities. It just gets more distracting than anything else.
Even this bizarre artistic conceit could have been forgiven, or at least tolerated, if the story and characters were of any particular interest, but Desplechin strikes here as well. “Deception” is largely non-stop talk, but as the conversations go on and on, they are more like stylized acting exercises between two actors who are meant to play characters with an intimate story, but who seem to have only met each other five minutes before they did the stage. There is never a single moment where we ever really believe in the feelings and the emotions between them. There is no tangible feeling of passion, anger, regret, longing or any of the things that sensitive people (even literary geniuses) would theoretically experience – every conversation has the stunned feeling of a TV commercial.