Lady Oscar

Screening on Film
Directed by Jacques Demy.
With Catriona MacColl, Barry Stokes, Christina Böhm.
France/Japan, 1978, 35mm, color, 124 min.
In English.

Based, rather unexpectedly, on a popular shōjo manga—Japanese nomenclature given to stories focusing on strong heroines—Lady Oscar transplants one of Demy’s characteristically resilient females to the politically precarious landscape of the French Revolution, in turn breeding something of an unsung feminist costume drama. Born female but raised according to male standards of rank and dress by her domineering army general father, Oscar is someone who falls outside the heteronormative order even as she assumes class privilege and a coveted position as Marie Antoinette’s personal guard. Demy’s epic refuses to call too much attention to its defining gender ambiguity, instead using its heroine’s precise social position as a way of delicately illuminating the political, economic and cultural contexts that shape and in many ways predetermine the development of a person without regard to individual desires. Elaborately decorated and photographically handsome, Lady Oscar joins Barry Lyndon and The Draughtman’s Contract as bold auteurist spins on 17th and 18th century European nobility.

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