The divorced Rosalie (Romy Schneider) is attending a family wedding with her new lover, the wealthy scrap metal merchant César (Yves Montand), when she encounters her ex-boyfriend David (Sami Frey), a cartoonist newly back from America. At the reception, David tells César that he still loves Rosalie, and César can see that the feeling isn’t entirely one-sided. Thus begins Sautet’s magnificent ménage-à-trois César and Rosalie, in which these two very different men compete for the fickle affections of their impulsive lady love, only to slowly form their own grudging friendship. Montand is simply extraordinary as the cigar-chomping César, a self-made man accustomed to getting his way and using money to make himself and others happy. And Schneider, in the third of her five Sautet collaborations, was never more enigmatically beautiful. The tone of the film is melodrama perched on the brink of farce, a tightrope Sautet navigates with astonishing ease. The obvious comparison is to Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, though as the decades pass, César and Rosalie may seem the even greater achievement. Look fast for the teenage Isabelle Huppert, in one of her first screen appearances, as Schneider’s precocious younger sister.
“Whenever you think the relationships are going to be stabilized into formulas, the picture wiggles free. It's a fluky, wry ode on the imperfect, haphazard nature of romantic love.” —Pauline Kael, The New Yorker
“An enchanting story of what love is all about. The enchantment of Sautet’s film is his acknowledgment that it is in the daily living rather than the nightly bedding that meaningful relationships exist.” —Judith Crist, New York Magazine