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Lady Oscar (1979)

6.3
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Oscar François de Jarjayes was born female, but her father who longed for a son and a heir insisted she be raised as a boy, alongside, Andre Grandier, the grandson of her nanny. When Oscar ... See full summary »

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Title: Lady Oscar (1979)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Catriona MacColl ...
Barry Stokes ...
Christine Böhm ...
Jonas Bergström ...
Mark Kingston ...
Général de Jarjayes
Martin Potter ...
Conte de Giraudet, Oscar's Fiancé
Nicholas Amer ...
M. De Chantilly, the pistol duelist
Patrick Floersheim ...
Oscar's sword adversaire in tavern
Consuelo De Haviland ...
Oscar's pair at the Black Ball
...
Oscar as a child
Andrew Bagley ...
André as a child
Cadine Constan ...
Madame de Vallois / Launderess
Anouska Hempel ...
...
Rosalie Vallois
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Patrick Allan
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Storyline

Oscar François de Jarjayes was born female, but her father who longed for a son and a heir insisted she be raised as a boy, alongside, Andre Grandier, the grandson of her nanny. When Oscar matures into an adult she is selected to be captain of the guards at the Palace of Versailles under King Louis XVI and Marie Antonette. Oscar soon learns the problems of the monarchy and the plight of the poor which will eventually lead to the French Revolution. She also finds herself torn between her true love for the independent, but lower-class Andre and her duties as a member of aristocracy and a trusted subject of the King and Queen. Written by Hailey-7

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

3 March 1979 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Berusaiyu no bara  »

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Runtime:

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Version of Queen's Necklace (1946) See more »

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User Reviews

 
LADY Oscar (Jacques Demy, 1979) ***
24 December 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

As had been the case with Christian-Jaque's THE BLACK TULIP (1964), this is another French swashbuckler whom I first became aware of via the Japanese animated series I used to catch on Italian TV as a kid. Conversely, the film version of LADY Oscar proved to be more satisfying than that of THE BLACK TULIP, which is surprising given that the former is a maligned film within its distinguished director's canon. Having said that, along with his modernistic remake of Jean Cocteau's OPRHEE' (1950) entitled PARKING (1985), LADY Oscar had always been the one title I was most eager to catch from Demy's lean and near-invisible post-1973 period. It is ironic therefore that I have managed that feat before having acquainted myself with Demy's best-known and finest achievements of the early 1960s – which is all the more remarkable when one considers that LADY Oscar was a bastard international production: a Franco-Japanese joint venture shot in English with a cast of equally mixed nationalities and whose tangled worldwide distribution rights have made it impossible for even the British Film Institute to secure a screening in their renowned National Film Theatre in London for a 'complete' Jacques Demy retrospective in November 2007! Therefore, all the more power to Yamato Video, the Italian DVD production company who specializes in releasing vintage Japanese anime series (that were all the rage on Italian TV as I was growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s) for succeeding where others have failed; a gallery of trailers from their catalogue is available as a supplement on the LADY Oscar disc and watching it was "a blast from the past" for me as the saying goes!

Anyhow, back to the film at hand: the fairy-tale qualities of the historical narrative are ideal hunting grounds for Demy, who had already brought DONKEY SKIN (1970) and THE PIED PIPER (1972) to the screen – although, in this case, he drew inspiration from a Japanese comic strip rather than a local legend (albeit set in his native land). Needless to say, the film is a feast for the eyes when it comes to sets (some of the exteriors were actually shot on the Versailles Palace grounds) and costumes but, even if the work of Demy here seems not be counted among his finest achievements, a couple of elegantly sweeping camera movements (the clandestine meeting in the abandoned château between Queen Marie Antoinette and her Swedish lover) and well-mounted sequences (the vigorous fist-fight in the tavern) are certainly noteworthy; the same applies to the musical contribution of Demy's regular composer Michel Legrand. If there are distinct flaws, it's that the film moves at rather too deliberate a pace (with a running time of just over two hours) and has a needlessly unhappy ending.

In spite of the title, the narrative incorporates three parallel story lines that give a more sweeping picture of the tumultuous times it depicts (starting out in 1755 with the birth of Oscar and culminating in the storming of the Bastille that led directly to the French Revolution of 1789): Oscar's father had long wanted a male heir to follow him into his military career and when his wife dies in giving birth to yet another female, he determines to make a man of his newborn child regardless; while Oscar is eventually recruited as personal guard to Marie Antoinette, we follow the amorous exploits of the latter as well as the rise of one female peasant into aristocracy through devious schemes and callous behavior to her true peers (perhaps in emulation of the notorious Madame Dubarry whose name is mentioned at one point). In view of its origins as light-hearted kiddie fare, there is a surprisingly subversive undercurrent of sexual ambiguity in Oscar's imposed masculinity (and the fact that this starts a cross-dressing fad among the upper classes), the repressed feelings for her shown by the stable boy she grew up with, the full-blown kiss on the lips Oscar gives during her own supposed engagement party to a giggling young lady she's dancing with, etc.

Catriona MacColl looks just ravishing in the title role, both when dressed in her military outfit and also when she occasionally gives in to her womanhood (including a brief topless bit); this was her first film and arguably her best role since only another appearance for Demy and three in Lucio Fulci horror films – including CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) for which she even recorded an exclusive audio commentary for its R2 DVD! – really stick out from the rest of her filmography. Another beguiling presence in the film is undoubtedly that of Christine Bohm who plays Marie Antoinette; unlike MacColl (despite their being the same age), LADY Oscar proved to be her last film as she tragically died at 25 in an accident that same year. As for the male cast, the most prominent are Barry Stokes (as Oscar's stable boy companion and true love) and Martin Potter (as her jaded, titled but short-lived fiancé); incidentally, while they both had their artistic triumphs for major directors – in Juan Antonio Bardem's THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER (1973) and Federico Fellini's FELLINI - SATYRICON (1969) – they each also worked for cultish British exploitation film-maker Norman J. Warren in, respectively, PREY (1978) and SATAN'S SLAVE (1976)!!

P.S. My amiably lazy feline pet goes by the name of "Lady Oscar": I had originally dubbed it Oskar – in tribute to one of my favorite foreign films THE TIN DRUM (1979) because, like its protagonist, my cat seems to have stopped growing of its own accord (while that of my aunt, which is of a similar breed and only a year or so older, has become quite huge!); my mother, unaware of this connection, insists on calling her "Lady" because, first of all, it's a female and, frankly, really does act royally and has the genuine impression that we're there to wait on it!!


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