Philip Roth calling

Arnaud Desplechin on Deception and a conversation with Philip Roth

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Deception director Arnaud Desplechin tells Anne-Katrin Titze about the Emmanuelle Devos Kings & Queen connection to Andrew Wylie that led to a phone call from Philip Roth.
Deception director Arnaud Desplechin tells Anne-Katrin Titze about the Emmanuelle Devos Kings & Queen connection to Andrew Wylie that led to a phone call from Philip Roth.

Arnaud Desplechin’s adaptation with Julie Peyr of Philip Roth’s Deception (Tromperie), starring Denis Podalydès, Léa Seydoux (Bruno Dumont’s France), Emmanuelle Devos, and Anouk Grinberg, is a highlight of the 27th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York. Claire Denis’s Fire (Avec Amour Et Acharnement), starring Juliette Binoche (in a Free Talk with Constance Meyer’s Robust star Déborah Lukumuena), Grégoire Colin (Nora Martirosyan’s Should The Wind Drop), and Vincent Lindon is the Opening Night selection. Jim Jarmusch is the Guest of Honour of this year’s festival.

An in-person Q&A with Kent Jones and Arnaud Desplechin will follow a screening of Diane at the French Institute Alliance Française
An in-person Q&A with Kent Jones and Arnaud Desplechin will follow a screening of Diane at the French Institute Alliance Française Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Our Love Affairs: Arnaud Desplechin Selects at the French Institute Alliance Française will screen Kent Jones’s Diane, followed by an in-person Q&A with Arnaud and Kent. Éric Rohmer’s Love In The Afternoon (L'amour L'après-Midi); Max Ophüls’s The Earrings Of Madame De… (Madame de…), starring Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio De Sica; Ingmar Bergman’s The Touch with Elliott Gould (seen right now in Lisa Hurwitz’s The Automat), Bibi Andersson, and Max von Sydow, and Martin Scorsese’s The Age Of Innocence, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder, round out the films in the program.

From Paris, Arnaud Desplechin joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on Deception, Philip Roth and his upcoming film, starring Marion Cotillard. When I spoke with Arnaud last week, he was in the trenches of editing Frère at Soeur, and he told me about the time when he got a call in the middle of the night from Philip Roth.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Great to see you! How are you?

Arnaud Desplechin: I’m quite fine. For me it’s not actually the best moment because I’m at the beginning of the editing of my new film. I remember a line that Kent Jones was quoting. Lucas speaking to Scorsese saying: when a director doesn’t throw up after looking at his first assembly, he has a serious problem. So at this step of my work, you know, I’m vomiting myself each morning. But I’m sure that in two weeks I will be perfect.

AKT: This is Frère et Soeur?

AD: Yes, we started the editing a few weeks ago, so actually it’s not my first assembly, it’s more than a rough cut. I still have an epilogue to shoot.

Denis Podalydès and Léa Seydoux in Deception
Denis Podalydès and Léa Seydoux in Deception

AKT: We spoke before about your affinity for Philip Roth and I was very curious when you first mentioned that you were doing an adaptation of his novel Deception.

AD: Decades ago, preparing and working on Kings & Queen, I did some tests with Emmanuelle Devos with the epilogue of Deception. It happened that the distributor loved it, so on the collector French DVD, there was our test. I was playing the part of Philip. I was terribly bad but the camera was on Emmanuelle giving the lines.

It happened that this DVD arrived on the desk of Andrew Wylie, who was the agent of Philip Roth. And it happened that from the desk of Andrew Wylie it arrived on the desk of Philip Roth. And one evening, late at night in France, there was a phone call. It was before the cellphone. And I had Roth on the phone, you know!

AKT: Wow!

AD: I was so stupid, you can’t imagine! Here in front of you, I’m less so. First, we know each other, second, we are using Zoom so I can see your face. But on the phone I’m a disaster! So I was saying stupid French things like, “Sir, I’m so impressed.” And Philip Roth was answering “Don’t sir me, Arnaud!” I thought, I can’t call him Philip, so I said “Mr. …” “Don’t mister me!” So I said “Ok.” What Philip, what Mr. Roth was saying to me was “You should make a film about Deception, but just do it like that.”

And I was saying that it’s quite complicated because it’s a period piece, it’s before the fall of the Wall, and you still have Czechoslovakia and the problems with the communists, the Soviet block etc. Plus you have to shoot in England, plus you have to shoot in Prague, in New York, and in Newark when he’s visiting his father. So it’s complicated. He said “No, Arnaud, you don’t get my point. Just do it like that.” And I thought, okay, he’s my favorite writer, but he’s old, he doesn’t know a thing about cinema, he’s wrong. And I’m so clever and I’m so right, you know.

Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr adapted Philip Roth’s novel Deception
Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr adapted Philip Roth’s novel Deception Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

It took me 15 years to understand how right he was. So when I thought about the writing of the adaptation, I had this idea, just like in Vanya on 42nd Street, where you have American actors playing Russian characters, to do it as Philip Roth was recommending to do it, with French actors playing American and English characters. I had to establish the convention with the audience and that’s why I had this opening in sort of a theater, saying “Close your eyes,” and when Léa is closing her eyes, suddenly you are in Philip’s office and the film can start.

Coming up - More with Arnaud Desplechin on Deception, Philip Roth, his cast, composer Grégoire Hetzel, cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, costume designer Jürgen Doering, and Frère Et Soeur.

Deception screens in Rendez-Vous with French Cinema on Saturday, March 5, 9:15pm (Q&A with Arnaud Desplechin) and Sunday, March 13, 3:30pm.

Fire opens Rendez-Vous with French Cinema on Thursday, March 3, 6:30pm (Introduced by Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche) and Thursday, March 3, 9:15pm.

Claire Denis will have a Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Free Talk with Jim Jarmusch on Friday, March 4 at 5:00pm inside the Francesca Beale Theater of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

The Juliette Binoche and Déborah Lukumuena Free Talk takes place on Saturday, March 5 at 4:30pm inside the Amphitheater of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

The 27th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, organized by Film at Lincoln Center’s Florence Almozini and Madeline Whittle in collaboration with Unifrance, will run from March 3 to March 13.

Diane will have two screenings on Tuesday March 8 - 4:00pm and following the 7:30pm show a Q&A with Arnaud Desplechin and Kent Jones will take place inside Florence Gould Hall.

Our Love Affairs: Arnaud Desplechin Selects at the French Institute Alliance Française runs from March 1 through March 29.

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