Eye For Film >> Movies >> César And Rosalie (1972) Film Review
Ten years after Jules and Jim vyed for the attentions of Catherine in Truffaut's classic, and 20 years before Claude Sautet would return to the same theme in The Heart In Winter, he explores the idea of an eternal love triangle in César And Rosalie, promoting the leading female character to a title role and offering a sly commentary on the shifting status of women in society.
Rosalie (Romy Schneider) is a divorced, single mum who, in typical French fashion, gets on perfectly well with her ex (Umberto Orsini) and has moved on to live with a César (Yves Montand). César is a man's man, if ever there was one, self-made, self-assured and, in what his probably his most attractive aspect to Rosalie, not at all selfish, either in affection for her and her young daughter or in monetary terms.
Love is rarely simple in French movies, however, and the complexity here is offered not by the ex but by the lost love before that. David (Sami Frey) is the polar opposite of César. A softly spoken comic artist with bouffant hair and a lopsided grin, he may as well come with a tag reading 'ladies man' and, perhaps, represents the younger - but not much more attractive - face of French masculinity in contrast to César's old school blustery charm.
What ensues is a 'can't live with them, can't live without them' scenario as Rosalie vacillates between the two - although each of the men in question is shown to be their own worst enemy. Initially, César is in favour but is largely undone by his insecurities and uncontrollable jealousy, while later in the film it is David's inability to appreciate what he has that leads to problems. Meanwhile, both of the men, despite their different attitudes to life, view Rosalie as some sort of 'property' - her presence in the kitchen to make coffee/eggs/fetch ice capturing the problem in a nutshell. And Rosalie herself has to learn to practise her assertion that she "is free" rather than just pay it lip service. In essence, all the characters are flawed - and Sautet and co-writer Jean-Loup Dabadie's ability to make us as conflicted about which one we should root for as they are about one another is a neat trick.
They are less succesful in terms of tone, however, with César being played largely for laughs until a moment where things become altogether, yet not altogether successfully, more serious. The triumvirate of Schneider, Montand and Frey are formidable, though, with Schneider - always an actress who could put a gallon of emotion into a glance - keeping sympathy with Rosalie in her indecision and Montand and Frey getting to the heart of what she loves and dislikes about the both of them. There's also a blink and you'll miss it cameo for a very young Isabelle Huppert. Still, the trio's destination is tougher to believe than that of Jules, Jim and Catherine, with hard-to-reconcile emotional contortions necessary to reach Sautet's resolution - although the film's openendedness is welcome. More of an interesting curiosity, particularly for lovers of Montand and Schneider, than a must-see but Sautet's film offers an interesting snapshot of shifting sands in the Seventies sexual revolution.Reviewed on: 16 Nov 2012