Review: Cesar et Rosalie (1972)

Cesar et Rosalie (1972)

Directed by: Claude Sautet | 107 minutes | drama, comedy, romance | Actors: Yves Montand, Romy Schneider, Sami Frey, Bernard Le Coq, Eva Maria Meineke, Henri-Jacques Huet, Isabelle Huppert, Gisela Hahn, Betty Beckers, Hervé Sand, Jacques Dhéry, Pippo Merisi, Carlo Nell, Carole Lixon, Dimitri Petricenko Céline Galland, Henri Coutet, Marcel Gassouk, David Tonelli, Martin Lartigue, André Cassan, Serge Nubret, Ermanno Casanova, Colin Drake, Robert Le Béal, Muriel Deloumaux, Umberto Orsini, Michel Piccoli, Jean-Paul Blonday, Lucien Desagneaux, Lucienne Legrand, Jean-Claude Sussfeld, Nicolas Vogel

You don’t really have to be a film expert to expect much from ‘César et Rosalie’ based on the credits. In addition to Yves Montand, Romy Schneider and Sami Frey in the lead roles, we see a very young Isabelle Huppert in a supporting role and we hear the voice of Michel Piccoli as the narrator. With so many big names, a film can hardly fail, especially when you consider that all that talent was led by acclaimed director Claude Sautet.

‘César et Rosalie’ has not become a failure, but neither is it a masterpiece. As so often, the scenario is the biggest flaw. You can go in any direction with a story about a complicated love triangle, and then it depends on the interpretation whether the result is worth a bit. What ‘César et Rosalie’ lacks, however, is a profound psychological elaboration of the characters. In short, the story boils down to the fact that the beautiful Rosalie cannot choose between a scrap metal magnate and an artist. It soon becomes clear that these two opposites add up to the perfect man, but less clear is the motivation with which Rosalie rigorously switches lovers over and over again. The nonchalance with which this happens also gives ‘César et Rosalie’ a non-committal character that will eventually take its revenge on the long duration. The film also never manages to choose between comedy and drama, while the easygoing ending is a major anticlimax.

What makes this production worthwhile is the superb acting. Yves Montand initially seems to play on autopilot, but as his character gradually gains more depth, the Frenchman portrays this convincingly. Romy Schneider’s acting, here at its best, is even a bit too strong for this tragicomedy. Schneider’s subtle expression betrays a nuanced thought life, but that impression is always negated by her character’s bold actions.

While this ‘César et Rosalie’ is mainly a film for lovers of the better acting, as a bonus it offers an insight into the ambiguous position of women at the beginning of the 1970s. Rosalie is a developed and independent woman, but when César organizes a night out for his friends, she just as easily turns into a traditional house slave. She is also the one who takes care of the household with the young artist. ‘César et Rosalie’ proves for everything that times can change quickly. We would have believed that without this film, by the way.

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