Deception, as a novel and as a film, offers a curio for obsessives, a postcard for archivists, and a not-too-interesting bump in the road for everyone else.
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Desplechin and his film seem to have a perverse and single-minded fixation not on “dazzling, interesting” women, but lost, tragic ones—women who can gravitate toward and glom onto Philip (Denis Podalydès), an inexplicably francophone version of the author, who lavishes the attention.
Arnaud Desplechin’s Deception is a strange, stifling but frequently intriguing attempt to find a cinematic match for the literary voice of Philip Roth, from his autofictional 1990 novel of the same name.
Like a beltway surrounding its hero’s bloviating ego trips and massive libido, the film keeps turning in circles around a subject that’s only truly interesting if you’re Philip himself.
This zig-zagging emotionally perceptive tale of an American writer abroad and the women he has bedded — or perhaps merely written about having bedded — is accomplished French filmmaking the way arthouse denizens like it.
A film full of people smiling knowingly and laughing delightedly at each other’s not-especially-funny-or-interesting remarks, and it’s all the more insufferable for things the film gets fundamentally and structurally wrong.