Romy Schneider and Yves Montand in César et Rosalie (1972)


(director/writer: Claude Sautet; screenwriters: Claude Neron/Jean-Loup Dabadie; cinematographer: Jean Boffety; editor: Jacqueline Thiedot; music: Philippe Sarde; cast: Sami Frey (David), Yves Montand (Cesar), Romy Schneider (Rosalie), Bernard Le Coq (Michel), Eva-Maria Meineke (Lucie Artigues), Jacques Dhéry (Henri), Henri-Jacques Huet (Marcel), Isabelle Huppert (Marite), Betty Beckers (Madeleine), Gisella Hahn (Carla), Umberto Orsine (Antoine), Herve Sand (Georges), Carlo Nell (Jerome), Carole Lixon (Louise), Henri Coutet (Fantin), Céline Galland (Catherine); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Michelle De Broca; Wellspring; 1972-France-in French with English subtitles)

“The respected filmmaker delivers a clever and observant romantic drama that serves as a study on how the bourgeoisie operate behind middle-class conventions.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In the first international success of French writer-director Claude Sautet (“Nelly and Monsieur”/”Mado”/”Un Coeur en Hiver”) the respected filmmaker delivers a clever, slick and observant romantic drama that serves as a study on how the bourgeoisie operate behind middle-class conventions. It’s co-written by Claude Neron and Jean-Loup Dabadie, who keep its romantic triangle story old hat. What gives it life is the lively but stagy performance by Yves Montand, and the charming turns by Sami Frey and Romy Schneider.

Rosalie (Romy Schneider) is the young divorced single mom and live-in mistress of the middle-aged self-made wealthy scrap-metal businessman Cesar (Yves Montand), who runs a thriving lucrative business in Paris with his brothers Henri (Jacques Dhéry) and Marcel (Henri-Jacques Huet). Rosalie’s love for Cesar is tested when her old flame, a comic strip artist, David (Sami Frey), a friend of her ex-husband Antoine (Umberto Orsine), returns to Paris after abroad in America for the last five years and declares his love for her.

When Rosalie is drawn to the seductive soft-spoken David, Cesar, the volatile man’s man, loving the good life such as poker games, Cuban cigars and haute-cuisine, acts foolishly jealous while the confused Rosalie wavers back and forth as to which lover to choose. Despite their intense rivalry the men, both successful in their careers, become friends and try to get around the uneasy situation of the ménage-á-trois and find themselves dealing with several foolish incidents. It has a disappointing inconclusive ending, where Rosalie leaves both with her 4-year-old daughter (Céline Galland) in tow and when she returns might now be ready to make a choice.

I found the pleasant story too much like a soap opera, too polished and too meandering for my liking, but it’s wryly amusing and the three stars elevate their fashionable characters into portrayals of real-life people that merit our attention. It’s the kind of genre film the French seem to do better than others, and in American hands this pic would have probably bombed.