Lady Oscar (film)

Lady Oscar

International release poster
Directed by Jacques Demy
Produced by Mataichiro Yamamoto
Screenplay by Jacques Demy
Patricia Louisianna Knop
Based on The Rose of Versailles
by Riyoko Ikeda
Starring Catriona MacColl
Barry Stokes
Christine Böhm
Jonas Bergström
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography Jean Penzer
Edited by Paul Davies
Distributed by Toho
Release dates
  • March 3, 1979 (1979-03-03) (Japan)
Running time
124 minutes
Country Japan
Language English

Lady Oscar is a 1979 English-language Japanese-French romantic drama film, based on the manga The Rose of Versailles by Riyoko Ikeda. The film was written and directed by Jacques Demy, with music composed by his regular collaborator Michel Legrand. Lady Oscar was filmed on location in France.[1]


Oscar Françoise de Jarjayes (Catriona MacColl) is a young woman whose father, a career military man, wanted a boy. After she was born her father took to dressing Oscar in boy's clothes and raising her as a man. Privately Oscar acknowledges her feminine side, she dresses as a man and gains an honored position as a guard of Marie Antoinette (Christina Bohm). In her youth, Oscar is in love with Andre (Barry Stokes), the son of the family's housekeeper. Years later, when the French Revolution begins, Oscar and Andre's paths cross for the first time in years. With the assault on the Bastille, Oscar and Andre find themselves fighting on opposite sides of the revolution.



The major sponsor of the film was Shiseido, a cosmetics company, and Catriona McColl promoted a red lipstick for the spring cosmetic line that year.[2] Frederik L. Schodt and Jared Cook translated the entire manga series into English as a reference for the producers of this film, but gave the only copy of the translation to them and it was lost.[3]


The film was not a commercial success,[4] and MacColl's portrayal of Oscar, in particular, was criticized; it was felt by some critics that she was not androgynous enough to play Oscar.[5] On Midnight Eye, Jasper Sharp says the film "is one of those works that is so compellingly awful that entire dissertations could be written about what exactly went wrong."[6]

Anne Duggan chooses to view Lady Oscar within the context of Demy's other films. Duggan describes Ikeda's Oscar as having "much more self-knowledge" than the Oscar of the film, describing Demy's Oscar as being "in denial about sexual and class issues". Duggan feels that if agency is taken away from Oscar, it is given to lower-class characters in the film, in particular Andre.[7]

Variety described the film as recalling early Hollywood epics, and praised Catriona McColl's depiction of Oscar as a "woman waiting to burst out of a man's clothing".[8] Kevin Thomas, writing for the Los Angeles Times, described the film as a typical Jacques Demy film, noting its preoccupation with contrasting the lives of the aristocrats and the lives of the poor.[9]


  1. "Lady Oscar". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  2. Graham, Miyako (1997). "Lady Oscar & I". Protoculture Addicts. No. 45. p. 41.
  3. Thompson, Jason (2010-05-06). "The Rose of Versailles". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  4. Buruma, Ian (1985) [1984]. "The Third Sex". A Japanese Mirror: Heroes and Villains of Japanese Culture. Great Britain: Penguin Books. pp. 118–121. ISBN 978-0-14-007498-7.
  5. Shamoon, Deborah (2007). "Revolutionary Romance: The Rose of Versailles and the Transformation of Shōjo Manga". Mechademia. University of Minnesota Press. 2: 3–17. ISSN 2152-6648.
  6. Jasper Sharp (October 21, 2007). "Lady Oscar". Midnight Eye. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  7. Duggan, Anne E (2013-04-01), "The revolutionary undoing of the maiden warrior in Riyoko Ikeda's Rose of Versailles and Jacques Demy's Lady Oscar.(Critical essay)", Marvels & Tales, Wayne State University Press, 27 (1): 34–51, ISSN 1521-4281
  9. Thomas, Kevin (1983-05-12), "'LADY OSCAR': SEX SWITCH IN FRANCE", Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, v102, pp. M4, ISSN 0458-3035

Further reading

External links

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