Few films in Cannes, competition or otherwise, have us excited like Arnaud Desplechin’s Deception, the director’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s erotic, dialogue-laden novel. That combination’s sufficient reason for attention, but it’s not like we’ve just heard about the thing: Desplechin—a certified Film Stage Favorite™—first told us about the film in 2015, saying “Perhaps it’s a book that I will never be able to adapt for the screen, and I know I will regret it for the rest of my days.” In 2016 we talked further:
“This book fascinates me because it’s just pure dialogue — the most beautiful dialogue I’ve read between a man and a woman. The film, it’s about intimacy — so how are you dealing with a worldwide political issue when the film is dealing with intimacy? So today, I guess, my perspective is that it would be a wonderful thing, but I’m not sure the screen would be the perfect tool. I’m always wondering if it would not be a perfect theater play. I did this production for the stage in France last year. I’m wondering if I could transform it into a show, but onstage rather than onscreen. So I’m still dealing with that.”
Cut to 2021 and it’s shortly debuting in the festival’s new, auteur-focused section Cannes Premieres. Thus a first preview that, whatever its lack of subtitles, suggests our wait and hullabaloo are fully warranted—just the sight of Léa Seydoux and Denis Podalydès in erotic entanglement, of course, but also the implication that Desplechin and Julie Peyr’s script will act as something of a Mishima-esque Roth biopic. (An author named Philip; an actor with the male-pattern baldness to match; a possible surrogate for Claire Bloom, Roth’s then-wife who—much like the character seen herein—was furious with Roth’s “fictional” literary affair.) Should your interest in America’s great postwar writers be minimal, the great Yorick Le Saux’s presence is clearly not for naught.
Can we just see Deception right this second? No. But check out the trailer as we await word on US distribution: