Color, 1979, 123 mins. 28 secs.
Starring Catriona MacColl, Barry Stokes, Christine Böhm, Jonas Bergström, Mark Kingston, Martin Potter, Patsy Kensit
Happinet (Blu-ray) (Japan R0 HD), Arte (France R2 PAL), Royal (Japan R2 NTSC), Filmax (Spain R2 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

For Lady Oscarseveral years, celebrated French Lady Oscarfilmmaker Jacques Demy had to look beyond France to realize more projects, and six years later he finished one of his most mysterious and least-seen films, Lady Oscar. This adaptation of The Rose of Versailles, a popular manga by Riyoko Ikeda also turned into a mid-'70s anime series, was financed by Japan's Kitty Music, Nippon TV, Shiseido and Toho Companies and was only theatrically released in Japan for legal reasons which still remain muddy.

Catriona MacColl (future star of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead) made her feature film debut in the title role as Oscar, a girl born to a father who wished her to be raised as a boy to serve the French monarchy. She grows up wearing male clothing with only some of those around her recognizing her gender-bending nature, while her nanny's grandson, stable boy André (Prey's Stokes), becomes her coachman and quietly loves her for years. Oscar becomes Versailles' captain of the guard and closely serves the clueless Marie Antoinette (Böhm) while the royal misuse of state funds slowly boils into a social revolution. Meanwhile lots of duels, lavish balls, and romantic confusions ensue.

The most anonymous of Demy's films, Lady Oscar is visually spectacular and was partially shot on the real grounds of Versailles, but even with the participation of composer Michel Legrand (offering a pretty but fairly Lady Oscarbland score), it's hard to spot his touch here. It's certainly sumptuous though and loaded with an abundance of eye-popping costumes and locations, while MacColl does a solid Lady Oscarjob in the lead despite some stilted editing and a clunkier handling of English than Demy's earlier The Pied Piper. (On top of that, everyone speaks with British accents except for Bloody Friday's ill-fated Christine Böhm, adopting a French accent to play Marie Antoinette.) It's plenty of fun spotting odd cast members like Martin Potter (Satan's Slave), Sue Lloyd (The Stud), former Hammer eye candy and high society fixture Anouska Hempel, a boyish and fleetingly glimpsed Lambert Wilson, and a very young Patsy Kensit as the juvenile Oscar. That said, the sexual confusion of Demy's previous film carries over interestingly here in quite a few scenes, and the surprisingly tragic finale represents a continuing trend on Demy's part towards downbeat (or at least heavily bittersweet) story resolutions. It's probably safe to say that without the gender tweaking here and greater emphasis on political conflict and tragedy, we wouldn't have had his later efforts Un chambre en ville and Parking.

For years Lady Oscar was only available on video in Japan, which was actually fine since it was shot in English anyway. The Japanese DVD features a solid anamorphic transfer, a gallery, and in an exclusive that still makes it desirable for fans, the entirety of Legrand's isolated score as a secondary audio track. The Spanish DVD is bare bones and skippable. The Arte disc in the French Jacques Lady OscarDemy box set features six and a half minutes of home movie footage from the Versailles shoot (with voiceover by Alain Coiffier), a poster gallery, a video commentary featurette by film Lady Oscarhistorian Evelyne Lever, and Mathieu Demy reading more about the film from Berthome's writings.

In 2018, the film received its worldwide Blu-ray debut in Japan from Happinet with a new HD scan that brings out quite a bit more detail than before, which is essential in this film since the painterly decor is just as important as the characters. Some bumpy edits between shots can be seen at times (a flaw inherent in past versions as well), but otherwise it's in great shape and looks quite attractive. The DTS-HD MA mono options include English and Japanese tracks, neither of which are terribly dynamic as the film has always sounded flat and tinny. Extras include a fascinating teaser (in French, using production footage from the set), the Japanese theatrical trailer, and most substantially, a charming new interview featurette with MacColl, "Lady Catriona" (21m36s), in English with optional Japanese subtitles. She remembers the process of getting the role quite well, starting with an account of her ballet dancing and transition to French TV that led to her audition here and a couple of fibs she told that could have been a problem. She also touches on Lambert Wilson and recalls how she became great friends with Stokes, who was also her agent for a while later on, as well as the "scandal" involving Louis XVI's bed that almost got them banned from Versailles!

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Updated review on July 29, 2018.