Lady Oscar (1979)
Director: Jacques Demy.
Starring: Catriona MacColl (Oscar Françoise de Jarjayes), Barry Stokes (André Grandier), Christine Böhm (Marie Antoinette), Jonas Bergström (Hans Axel von Fersen), Mark Kingston (Général de Jarjayes), Martin Potter (Conte de Giraudet, Oscar's Fiancé), Nicolas 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), Patsy Kensit (Oscar as a child), Andrew Bagley (André as a child), Cadine Constan (Madame de Vallois / Launderess), Anouska Hempel (Jeanne Vallois / Jeanne de la Motte), Shelagh McLeod (Rosalie Vallois).
in her youth a female guard to Marie Antoinette loved Andre, but they meet again at the assault on the Bastille on opposites sides
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
1755. A father has five daughters. His wife gives birth to a sixth daughter and she has also dies in childbirth. Father says his wife would never have given her life for just another girl. Therefore, the baby's name is: Oscar Françoise de Jarjayes. The child will be his successor as commander of the Royal Guards.
1767. Oscar is a young girl now and she loves to sword fight with her friend André Grandier, son of the nanny. The Nanny comes outside and tells Oscar and André to stop the sword fighting. It has just been announced that the dauphin of France will marry the 11 year old Austrian princess Marie Antoinette. This will unite the families of the Bourbons and the Habsburgs. Oscar says someday when Marie is the queen, she will guard the queen with her life.
Marie Antoinette marries by proxy on April 19, 1767.
Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to her French relations on May 7, 1770.
The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on 16 May 16, 1770, in the Palace of Versailles.
Louis-Auguste was crowned King Louis XVI of France on June 11, 1775. Marie Antoinette becomes the queen. And Oscar and André grew up. Oscar's father comes outside to tell Oscar that playtime is over. Oscar has been appointed to the Queen's personal guard. André cannot go with Oscar, but dad has obtained work for him in the royal stables. Oscar is happy about the news, but André is not.
Oscar watches the queen as her royal hair dresser puts the final touches on her wig. The queen tells Oscar that she doesn't have to stand at attention all the time when she is with the queen. Oscar says that she was just watching a gentleman on a horse below who keeps staring at Her Majesty's window. The queen looks out and sees that it's the Swedish Count Fesen. The king lets himself into his wife's room. He congratulates Oscar for being right there at the door when he came in. He is happy that Oscar is on the job protecting the queen.
A mother and a daughter are laundresses. They come home and see Jeanne all dressed up in another woman's fancy gown. Jeanne refuses to take the dress off. She rushes out into the street and flags down a carriage. She tells her story, but the royal woman says that's not true. Where is her mother? Jeanne says mother is dead. So the royal woman lets Jeanne into her carriage and away they go.
The royal woman with a big heart tells a young man, Count Fesen, that she took the young woman in and is schooling and refining her. Furthermore, she is going to adopt Jeanne as her niece. Later the fellow flirts with Oscar. Oscar gets into her coach driven by André, who asks her if that fellow was bothering her? Oscar won't speak up. Jeanne's sister Rosalie comes over to the coach and tries to run a con like that of her sister Jeanne. She says that she and her mother have no food left. Oscar tells her that no one starves in Paris! The girl says yes they do. They die every day. André, being mad at Oscar, decides to flirt with the girl and take her home with him. Oscar gives the lady some money and off the sister goes.
A royal carriage goes by and may or may not have hit Jeanne's mother. The royal coach does not stop. But Oscar gets out of her carriage and goes to the assistance of the two laundresses. Another royal carriage pulls up behind André's carriage and the passenger in the other carriage tells André to move his carriage. Oscar now gets in a verbal fight with the royal and soon the man is asking Oscar for satisfaction. They arrange a time and place to fight the duel with pistols.
Oscar and André go home. André is up in her room telling her that he will not let her fight a duel. Oscar hears her father's steps approaching and hides André in the next room. She is fearful that dad is going to ball her out, but what he does is bring her a grand set of dueling pistols that father's father gave him on the occasion of his first duel. Dad is absolutely confident that Oscar will be the victor in the duel. After dad leaves, Oscar asks André to stay with her in her bedroom. She insists, so André stays.
André rests on the couch. Late at night he gets up and goes over to Oscar in her bed. She is sound asleep so André goes back to the couch.
Oscar shoots the fellow in the duel and is the victor. She's not too happy over her victory. André tells her thank God that it wasn't she who was shot.
Jeanne's sister comes to see her and Jeanne is very angry about this. She calms down a little when her sister tells her that their mother is dead, but not by much. When her betrothed enters the room she says this young woman came in and accosted her. The gentleman throws the young lady out. Jeanne sees another paramour headed to her room and she shoves her betrothed out the door and lets the cardinal enter through a side door. Jeanne continues working her magic on the cardinal.
Another royal in a carriage stops to try to pick up Jeanne's sister. Bernard, the fellow who tried to help Rosalie when her mother was hit by the royal carriage comes over and puts a stop to that. The royal rides on. Bernard tells Rosalie that she can stay with him. And he promises to get her a job. He gives her the door key and tells her to let herself in at number 16 and he will be there shortly. She starts walking to number 16, while the young fellow attends a political meeting among the radicals.
Oscar sees Bernard in the tavern and stops to talk to him for awhile. She notices the man next to the young man and says he is Maximilian de Robespierre. The two shake hands. Robespierre says something critical of the crown and Oscar gets mad at him. The gentleman tells the others at the table that with a little bit of criticism maybe the crown can straighten itself out. A fellow at the next table says much worse about the royals. Oscar gets mad again and tells the man his remarks are traitorous. Soon Oscar is fighting a duel with the outspoken fellow. Oscar is able to push her opponent down onto the ground. Now all hell breaks out between people with different political positions and their opposites. Oscar stabs one of her opponents with her sword.
Oscar and André awaken to find themselves in an alley. A friend of theirs find the couple. He helps André get Oscar up and onto André's horse. André starts riding off, while behind him comes the gentleman on his horse while pulling another horse behind him.
Oscar awakens in a bed and asks André if they won? André shakes his head no. He leaves the room. The Swedish Count is also there watching over Oscar. He still thinks she is a man, but the nanny sets the Count straight. He is a she. The Count now leaves so Oscar can get some rest. Oscar gets up to see the Count leave on his horse. She then goes over to a mirror and removes her bloody shirt. (brief nudity) André sees her partially nude in the mirror. He walks away from her.
Marie Antoinette has a tryst with a lover.
1776. The headline in the newspaper is that the queen takes a lover. Jeanne learns of the scandal and complains to her lover, the cardinal, about how this must hurt her friend Marie. The cardinal asks Jeanne if she could please put in a few good words about him to her friend the queen? Now the con artist Jeanne says she is held back because of her severe lack of funds. So the cardinal offers her some money to help her out. The cardinal is hoping that he can be made the first minister. He would do so much to change the situation in France to protect the queen from such malicious gossip.
Oscar is handed a dirty picture of the Swedish count having sex with Marie Antoinette. She rides out to catch up with the Swedish Count who has ridden out into the park. She reaches him and asks him about the drawing. He says he has seen this one and a dozen others like it. The Count says he will remove himself from the court by going on the Lafayette expedition to America. He now asks Oscar to give his goodbyes to the queen because he cannot bear do it himself.
André watches the couple for awhile and then takes off.
Now the Count takes off.
Oscar finally gets a chance to talk with the queen in her park. The queen tells her that she does not love the king, so she cannot be fulfilled by him. Oscar now acts boldly. She grabs and kisses the hand of the queen, saying that the kiss is from the Swedish Count. It is his goodbye to the queen. The queen looks shocked and hurt by Oscar's remarks. Her Majesty asks Oscar why does she want to hurt her queen? Oscar explains that the Count has gone to America. The queen shouts that she absolutely forbids it.
December 1778. At last the king was fit and able. The queen gives birth to a child. It's a girl. The girl is Marie Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême.
October 1781 Marie Antoinette gives birth to another child. The child is a boy and an heir. The heir is Louis Joseph, the dauphin of France.
The queen is given the chance to purchase a gorgeous necklace, but she turns it down saying that it's just too expensive.
The next surprise for the queen is that Count Fersen is back. This knowledge wakens Oscar too.
Rosalie is sent to deliver a dress to the woman whose carriage ran over her mother. Rosalie goes over to the mansion to deliver the dress. There she sees André. The two people know they have seen each other, but they can't quite make the connection. Rosalie tells André that her boyfriend Bernard tells her that the French aristocracy doesn't have long for this world. André says that he's going to the palace at Versailles. Rosalie begs him to take her along. André agrees to take her. He starts walking up the stairs, when Rosalie tells him that the dressmaker says the gown is late because the queen's lover is back. This news shocks André.
André tells nanny that he doesn't want to lose Oscar. Nanny sympathizes with him. Nanny takes the dress into Oscar. André listens by the door. Oscar sounds happy. She opens the door after Nanny leaves and sees André just standing there. She turns around and walks away from him, but then decides to show him. She swirls around to let André have a look. He says she is beautiful.
It's the night of the big ball. A coach drives up to the entrance and Rosalie hops out of the trunk in the rear of the coach. Oscar arrives at the ball. When she comes in she gets a lot of notice. She is intently watching Count Fersen.
Count Fersen dances with Oscar without recognizing hwe. He says he wishes Oscar were here. He also says that he could fall in love with Oscar if he was not so involved with another woman.
Rosalie attacks the aristocratic lady who ran her mother down. She chokes the lady and then runs away. She is pursued by many guards.
André finds Oscar walking around outside the ball. He tries to kiss her but she pulls her head back. He then kisses her. She pushes him away asking if André has gone insane? In the process she rips her dress a bit. He tells her that he loves her. She tells him that she wants the relationship to remain as it always has been, and André says how sad that is for both of them. She starts to walk away from him and he promises her to never touch her again.
"Somewhere unseen, a dark storm gathered."
1784. Marie Antoinette is having her portrait painted. The king comes in and tells her that he must speak with her in private. Everyone except the king and queen and the finance minister leave the room. The complaint the king has is that the queen has run up millions in debt. And what's worse is that the people have read all about it. The finance minister explains that he took it upon himself to publish a budgetary statement. He did this in order to get the queen to start curbing her expenditures. The nobility is also mad at her because they resent that the queen is very rarely at Versailles. He says that he is trying to prevent an economic crisis, which would then be a political crisis. Indeed, he even says he is trying to save the queen's life.
The queen's good friend comes in, aware of the economic situation. Marie complains that she will die of boredom at Versailles. Her friend reminds the queen that she always wanted to be an actress, so she can start a theater group at Versailles. This lifts the queen's spirits.
The cardinal tries to visit with the queen, but again is turned down. He becomes very frustrated. Jeanne tells him that the queen is putting him through a series of tests to prove the cardinal's loyalty to her. She says that the queen wants to buy a very expensive necklace without the king knowing about it. The cardinal will be the go-between. The cardinal is to put a down payment on the necklace. Then he will give the necklace to Jeanne. Then Jeanne will set up a meeting between the queen and the cardinal.
Jeanne is going to play like she's the queen dealing with the the jewelers.
1785 July. The queen is preparing a play. She asks Oscar if she thinks the queen is going to make a fool of herself acting in the play? Oscar says she might make a fool of herself. Anyway, the play she has chosen has been forbidden to be performed by His Majesty. The queen gets a little angry at Oscar and says that Oscar's answer was insincere and, therefore, an un-truth. So now she says that Oscar is only allowed to say something when she is being truthful.
Oscar now asks for a transfer to the French Guards. She says: "I need to expand my usefulness." The queen doesn't like it, but she will temporarily transfer Oscar to the French Guards.
The queen gets a letter from the jeweler reminding her about the arrangement over the purchase of the necklace. She doesn't know what the jeweler is talking about. She burns the letter.
Oscar reviews the French Guard but the men say mean things to her. She gets so frustrated that she dismisses the whole group and tells them to remain in their barracks until they find their missing swords and have changed their attitudes. Poor Oscar. Now she gets guff from her superior officer who says she should have stayed with the royal household.
Oscar tells André: "My men hid their swords today just to torment me." André doesn't pay much attention to her and she says she misses him being around her. The problem is the social status difference between her as an officer and he as a stable boy. André speaks of the importance of equality and says he would gladly give his life for the future equality of France. Oscar leaves. She goes over to her father's mansion.
She goes in to speak with her father. He is with Conte de Giraudet and, apparently, thinks it a good idea for Oscar to marry this nobleman. Oscar laughs, but her father scolds her. Dad says Oscar has no say in this. He has decided to marry his family to the Giraudet family. And, this mean for Oscar, that now she will be a Countess.
Giraudet says he will announce their engagement at a ball in his manor. He wants her to wear a white dress.
The Count now tells André that he will honor the long relationship between André and his future wife. He can come to work four the Count. André throws some wine in the man's face, saying he's too clumsy to serve on the Count's staff. The Count pulls out a hidden dagger saying that he could plunge it into André's chest. But he would rather see André suffer slowly.
André asks Oscar if she is going to accept this engagement? She asks: "What choice do I have?" André now tells Oscar that he will no longer be a servant. He is leaving.
1785 August. The cardinal gets balled out by the king and queen for being a part of this fraud, in what is being called The Affair of the Necklace. The cardinal says it is only now that he learned that all the communications supposedly on his behalf to the queen were fraudulent. He was a victim of Jeanne and it is she who has the necklace.
The queen says she wants Jeanne "hunted down like the vicious animal that she is." Jeanne is captured and branded with a hot iron on her upper left chest with the letter V.
Lady Oscar shows up at the ball for the engagement announcement dressed in a white soldier's uniform, which was exactly what the Count did not want. She then acts the part of a man and dances with a woman of her choice, who thinks Oscar is a man. She now bends the woman over and kisses her. A gasp comes up from the people at the ball. She thinks she has scandalized the Count, but he is not easily discouraged.
He takes her into another room. Oscar tells him flat-out: "You repulse me!" She tries to leave the room, but he blocks her way. He tells Oscar that he loves her. She says: "I have the right to love whom I wish to love." She would prefer to marry his dog before she would marry the Count. Oscar goes back into the ballroom.
Bertrand and Rosalie work to tell the people that it is time to summon the States General. They must demand that the Third Estate be given more power. The queen and king are burned in effigy. Now comes the French Guards to disperse the crowd and the speaker. Not wanting Oscar to get hurt, André grabs her and pulls and pushes her out of the way.
When they are safe Oscar asks where has André been lately? He has been staying with Bertrand and Rosalie. Where has she been? Oscar says she just broke her engagement today. André says: "Then you're learning. You've already taken the first step Now will you have the courage to break the ties with your past? Will you come with me, Oscar?" She says she can't do that. Oscar chose to close her eyes to what was going on around her and just continued to do her duty.
Outside there is a lot of shouting from the dissatisfied citizens. Oscar goes into see the future king of France. just a little boy. He says he never knew there were so many people upset about the government. The boy told his mother that life is changing around them, but mother just didn't believe him. He adds that he is dying. The little prince dies. Marie Antoinette sold her silver to pay for the boy's funeral.
In the States General, 100 of the clergy and aristocracy voted to join with the common people. Fearing the growth in the common people's strength the States General was closed down.
1789, June 17. The storm now turns into a hurricane. The people are lined up in massive numbers. Robespierre says if the States General is closed to them, then they will go elsewhere. "We are the true National Assembly now. We shall draw up our own constitution. Follow me!"
The commander of the French Guards orders Oscar to open fire on the people using the cannon. Oscar says she will not do it. So the commander orders that the French Guard shoot Oscar down. The men say they won't do it.
Oscar is in jail with other royal soldiers. She thanks her fellow soldiers for not shooting her when the commander ordered them to shoot her. She adds that she would hate to think that she would miss out now when she is suddenly realizing the importance of the concept of democracy.
The radicals now pour into the jail and let the soldiers out. André is with them. He rushes over to hug Oscar. She hugs him too.
And now she stands up to her father. He slaps her three times and she slaps him back. Now dad is going to fight her with swords. He is able to wound Oscar in the right hand. André takes over for her and he defeats dad. Oscar doesn't want her father killed. André spares his life.
André tells Oscar that today the army opened fire on the people. Tomorrow the people will arm themselves and storm the Bastille. André says he will join the people in the assault on the Bastille. Oscar says she is going to go with André, but he says no, because if something happened to her, he couldn't go on without her. Now she tells him that she loves him. They hug and kiss. They lay down together on a mattress in the corner of the room.
1789 July 14. The king prepares to go hunting. The queen awakens beside Count Fersen. He asks her to go away with him, but the queen says she has no fear. "I've done them no wrong. I am their queen."
The people are mobilizing again. The soldiers this time attack the people, shooting them with rifles and cannons. The people start running away. André and Oscar are together in the crowd. As the people start running away again, André gets separated from Oscar. Without Oscar, André gets shot in the back running away from the soldiers. But after awhile, the soldiers see they are so outnumbered that they start running for their lives. Citizens pursue them into the Bastille and soon the Bastille belongs to the people.
Oscar continues searching for André, while everybody else are celebrating what just happened. She searches for André shouting out André's name as she moves upstream against the flow of people.
Good film. It covers a good deal of the start of the Revolution in France and then the Revolution itself. The film even tells the story of the Affair of the Necklacde. The story, in which a beautiful woman, becomes a royal soldier and is thought to be a man is a little hard to believe. But the difficulties between André and Oscar (the woman) are real and believable. The class differences are their biggest problem. Sexual harassment is eventually a big problem for Oscar. One wonders if Oscar will ever awaken from her political sleep and acknowledge the seriousness of the political situation and what her role should be in it. Or will she be too late when she does wake up?
Catriona MacColl (as Oscar Françoise de Jarjayes) just did not fit the part. But then again, the director didn't try to make her look like a man. She seemed a little stilted to me. Barry Stokes (as André Grandier) did a much better job of acting. Christine Böhm (as Marie Antoinette) was also good in her role.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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