Lady Oscar (Jacques Demy / France-Japan, 1979):

Jacques Demy’s roundabout road back to France, taken from the Japanese manga and peopled with British thesps. The ancien régime is presented from 1755 to the storming of the Bastille, political turmoil to match the sexual upheavals of a woman raised as a boy and parachuted into Versailles. The little girl is named Oscar and made captain of the palatial guards, the gentle jest has the androgyny of the animé original transmuted into sonsy Catriona MacColl in a blue military coat, being addressed as "kind sir" and "young man." The court is a parlor of cotton-candy perukes, frilly brocades and gold-lined doorways, Marie Antoinette (Christine Böhm) is a fuzzy chiclet lent the glow of romance during her illicit rendezvous with a Swedish suitor (the couple is privileged with the sole source of light in a room as Demy’s camera goes into an enraptured swirl). Shelagh McLeod completes the trio of female pluckiness as the young seamstress on a vengeful mission -- three women on their "own quiet battles." A willowy rebuke of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, done in the style of Fragonard and founded on the blur-zones between reality and fantasy, revolt and submission, femininity and masculinity. The character ensnared the most between these opposites is Oscar herself, who follows a tavern brawl with topless lounging in bed and struggles to maintain her soldierly bearing while contemplating love: "There was a man once who made me feel very strange... and confused." That man (Barry Stokes) is the childhood pal turned dissident, the Demy dreamer who voices the Demy melancholia ("We can’t turn back the clock"). The climax pinpoints the loss of romance in the fête of history -- shy of Borzage, what other director would rate the French Revolution by how it can separate or unite lovers? With Jonas Bergström, Mark Kingston, Sue Lloyd, Terence Budd, and Patsy Kensit.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home