Moi, Cesar

Moi, Cesar


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Ten-year-old Cesar Petit (Jules Sitruk) is 4'6" tall and 10lbs overweight, more interested in eating sweets than the activities - piano, karate etc - his parents (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey and Maria de Medeiros - the latter sadly underused) foist upon him. He's smart enough to know the value of playing dumb, careful to do well enough to avoid annoying his parents, but not so well as to attract unwanted attentions from the other kids. And he's just starting to discover girls, like Sarah (Josephine Berry - the director's daughter), and growing a touch envious of his friend Morgan (Mabo Kouyate) for being so damned attractive, athletic and, well, grown-up.

When Cesar's father's business partner dies, his dad is left to explain some financial irregularities. After the police turn up and Mr Petit vanishes, Cesar concocts a story that his dad is in jail, instantly gaining the approval of his classmates. Then Mr Petit appears at the school...

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After the fallout from this incident has subsided, a school parent/child excursion to the sewage treatment works leads to the suggestion that Morgan ought to find his father, a Londoner named Charly Fitzgerald, whom he has never met. With Sarah volunteering to help Morgan, because her English/French parents have brought her up to be bilingual, Cesar decides to go along too and hopefully impress his love. Needless to say, none of the kids informs their parents...

Early on in Moi, Cesar, the young hero explains how his name was chosen as a compromise, his parents favouring different ancient personages, but unable to otherwise agree. It's a throwaway line that nevertheless becomes emblematic of the whole film, with director Richard Berry seemingly unable to decide whether he is making a children's film or a film starring children, intended for an older audience.

For the first half, we see things more or less through Cesar's eyes, with an accompanying voice over. Sometimes displaying insight and sagacity beyond his years, like the young Woody Allen in Radio Days - Cesar is also Jewish, though Eric Assous's writing lacks the distinctively Jewish humour of Allen. Cesar's perceptions are elsewhere firmly those of a child. Fart gags sitting alongside reflections on the semiotics of "mistress" when spoken by children in relation to their teacher and by adults, while one-liners, such as "after childhood comes adultery," get a whole class of 10-year-olds laughing rather than raising puzzled expressions.

Worse, this schism becomes more apparent after the three children depart for London. Cesar's voice-over takes a back seat role and the adventure skirts perilously close to Children's Film Foundation territory with a spot of danger and a somewhat fantastical/improbable happy-ever-after type resolution.

Yet, even if it is certainly no 400 Blows - what is? - Moi, Cesar is a reasonably well directed and acted piece that manages to raise a smile.

Reviewed on: 26 Oct 2003
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Three French children go to London to find one of their fathers.

Director: Richard Berry

Writer: Eric Assous, Richard Berry

Starring: Jules Sitruk, Maria de Medeiros, Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Josephine Berry, Mabo Kouyate, Anna Karina

Year: 2003

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France


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