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I don't care what country you are from or what your sexuality is, La Cage
Aux Folles is an endearing comedy the likes of which comes around perhaps
once a decade.
Michael Serrault is the centerpiece of the film, as the star of the La Cage revue and the "mother" of the young man wishing to marry the daughter of an incredibly "moral" politico. The toast scene had me rolling on the floor...Serrault's high-pitched nervous yelps punctuate the film's comedy.
One of the few cult films really deserving of that status, La Cage is not one to be missed.
Absolutely classic French bedroom farce, hilarious from start to finish. Oft-told tale about two gay lovers whose son wants to marry a politician's daughter, and the lover's attempt to straighten out for one night. So far there are two sequels, a musical version, and an inferior American remake ("The Birdcage" with Nathan Lane and Robin Williams), but this is the original, the only, the funniest, the best.
Don't let the subtitles intimidate you, this is hilarious, this is the best, this movie RULES.
This cult classic deserves its reputation. I saw it many years ago at a
film festival and have loved it ever since.....I grabbed up a video as soon
as it became available. It appears, that in the last few years, some
critics are finding fault with the film but in my opinion it has held up
The two main characters and the actors that play them are priceless. Ugo Tognazzi, one of my favorite Italian actors,is so suave and world-weary as Renato, the stronger of the couple. Michel Serrault is a nervous, overwrought, insecure prima donna who squeals and minces his way through life and will have you falling off the couch with delight. Although there is not a lot of affection shown between the two, the underlying strength of their relationship is evident.
One warning......do not see the dubbed version of this film!! It is most unsatisfactory. The sub-titled version at least retains the voices of the actors which is part of the appeal of the film. If you speak French, please see the original...many of the lines do not translate well to English and contain nuances that are not present in the translation. Whichever version you see (sub-titled or original), it will be a viewing experience that will bring tears of laughter....it's a joy!
I have fond memories of this film. It played in Boston in 1979--back
then I was a closeted high school kid. It played for over a year at a
theatre in Boston and I was curious to see why. I somehow got in (the
film was R rated and I looked about 14) and loved it! It was funny,
uplifting, gay positive and made me realize there is nothing wrong with
being gay. Seeing it again over 20 years later it's not as funny or
uplifting as it once was but I still enjoyed it.
The plot is old hat and the movie is directed by the numbers but the script has some very funny lines and all the performances are great. Particularly funny are Michel Serrault (as the more feminine gay man) and Michel Galabru (as the minister of moral order). The final dinner party sequence is absolutely hysterical!
Some people have said this film has stereotyped gay characters and that Serrault's constant screaming is annoying. I disagree--I found nothing offensive about the characters (there are gay men like Serrault--I've met them!) and his screaming is actually pretty funny. A very good French farce--well worth seeing. Ignore the R rating--it only has that because of the subject matter (which was pretty risky for 1978). If it were rerated today it would easily get a PG-13.
Skip the two sequels and the Americanized remake "The Birdcage" in which they use the exact same script as the original--with all the same jokes and some bad new ones added in.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is impossible for me, having been exposed to The Birdcage first, to not
compare the original and the remake. Almost from the word go I sensed a
great disparity within the two films even though the remake ended up being
and uninspired copy and paste writing job. The first thing that lends
to creating a different tone is the music composed by Ennio Morricone. The
music in the Birdcage by Mark Mothersbaugh and Jonathan Tunick is
forgettable seeing as I've seen the remake three or four times and can't
remember a single note while I've seen the original once and can still
remember Morricone's score.
Ennio Morricone's gentle music takes us into a world that we shouldn't be afraid of. The key word to thinking about his music is sensitive. It exudes softness, tenderness which is aped by the action and the actors who are not ridiculous characterizations but with real people and real emotions. Due to the fact that all scenes include practically the same dialogue it is a huge complement to Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault that they made their characters more three-dimensional and real than Robin Williams and Nathan Lane.
The American interpretation of this film is also vastly different than the French. Due to the fact that this film deals with homosexuality which is a topic that still is tinged with taboo here Americans have to turn the film into a farce of a farce. In other words the movie has to be ridiculously over the top to be accepted. The pathetic part of the remake is that it perpetuates stereotypes and while the stereotypes do exist (for how do stereotypes come into being?) by merely making them more human we can see beyond a stereotype to the person portrayed. A perfect example of this is the opening scene. They are the same in both films. Renato (Armand in the American version) tries to get Albin (Albert) onto the stage to perform his act. In the American version Nathan Lane makes his character seem like a whining melodramatic pain-in-the-you-know-what because of this the scene is very funny but emotionally superficial. In the French version practically the same dialogue is spoken but because of the way Michel Serrault delivers his lines and because of the more subdued expression he has on his face the words take on weight. They have meaning they come across as real concerns for the relationship as opposed to a paranoid delusion and an excuse not to go on stage. It made me believe the affair was a possibility all over again and made me forget about the son and his impending marriage.
The deception of the possibility that Renato is having an affair is aided by the son's appearance. In the American version he was clean-cut and Ivy League here the son in full 1970s look long hair included.
La Cage aux folles in 1978, even in France, was a more progressive film depicting a gay relationship, a gay couple who had raised a son and how the couple still had to pretend in certain social situation while longing to be completely honest. By 1996 in the United States homosexuality was not such a hot topic of controversy yet a slapstick-esque context is the only way the mainstream will be able to accept gay characters. Dramas about homosexuals are sole dominion of the art houses.
This is a film that does something very difficult to do. It takes a situation that is rich with comedy and imbues it with humanity and warmth. Making this a layered comedy which is something rare regardless of the country the film is made in. Le Cage aux folles is a really fun film which takes a serious look at human relationships and society's perception of people's lifestyles without putting any one down or getting preachy. It's a lot of fun.
I first saw La Cage Aux Folles after its American remake "The Birdcage".
This was unfortunate because that meant the plot was already familiar to
However, it was even more hilarious than its American version. The
characters in the American version are nearly exact duplicates of their
French counterparts. Somehow, the whole movie appears funnier in its
original French (even though I don't speak French).
American audiences may like the remake better because the script was rewritten so that its humor was more topical. For instance, Gene Hackman's character is an obvious farce of Bob Dole, who was a prominent republican leader at the time. The French version contains a more generic conservative versus liberal dialogue.
However, if you can stand reading the translations, La Cage Aux Folles is well worth your time. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
I was literally dragged to this movie in the late 1970s, at an "Art" theatre
(left pinky up in the air) no less. Needless to say, I didn't want to go.
For crying out loud, I'm an ex-jock.
Well, I'm glad (this time) my friends insisted. I doubled over laughing; at the time, this was risque material (nobody wore sunglasses into the theatre, if I remember correctly, but still) that didn't interest me one way or another. But somehow, someway the writer, director and actors made you care about these two men and their dilemma. The champagne scene almost caused me to bolt for the men's room.
I never did see Robin Williams remake. What for?? It was done to perfection by this film crew. Winner of best Foreign Film Oscar, I believe, 1978.
"La cage aux folles" is a brilliant comedy. It is the film upon which "Bird Cage" with Robin Williams is featured. One should not miss this classic expose of trans sexual entertainment. The novelty of such sexual innuendos was rare in 1978 when this picture was released. If is followed by an equally funny comedy, "La cage aux folles II", another film to be added to the must see category. One does not even require the translations across the bottom of the screen. One can simply enjoy the artistic perfection of pure cinematic comedy as presented visually. The French subtitles are well adapted. The scenery is clever. The cast is perfect. Don't miss this great comedic success.
The first time I saw "La Cage ax Folles" was in my French film class and I loved it. Michell Serrault became my favorite French actor after watching this comedy. He is really great and I could not stop laughing. You don't even have to speak nor understand French too much, because just looking at him makes you laugh. Another factor that contributes a lot to the good acting of the two lovers are fabulous costumes. My favorite one was the heart-shaped one worn by the butler, but they were all great. I have also seen the American remake of this film "The Birdcage" and I have to tell you that it doesn't even compare to the original. There are more part of La Cage aux Folles, but the first one is the best of all and I would definitely recommend it.
Already considered a mainstream cult classic, "La Cage aux Folles" ranks as
one of the biggest crossover box-office hits ever to land on American soil.
And for very good reason. Italy's Ugo Tognazzi and Gallic Michel Serrault
are the most inspiring and oddest couple to appear on screen since Jack
Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and just as entertainingly colorful as Siegfried
Tognazzi essays the role of Renato, a suave, successful, over-the-hill cabaret owner whose nightly drag revues spotlight his long-time partner Albin (who goes by the stage name "Zaza"), a touchy, temperamental, hopelessly mincing diva who has got to be seen to be believed. A neurotic wreck most of the time, Zaza (Serrault) is a full-time job for the exasperated Renato, needing constant coddling and stroking when it comes to "her" age (she's up there), figure (a deep fondness for chocolates hasn't helped), and affairs of the heart (they are celebrating their 20th year anniversary, but the invariably jealous Albin/Zaza is sure Renato is playing around while she's performing). Getting the insecure Zaza on stage every night usually includes your usual number of psychoanalytical sessions, shoe-throwing tirades and prescription medicines.
The fun begins after Renato's son, Laurent, conceived during a temporary moment of heterosexual abandon ("you should try everything once"), informs his father of his plans to marry -- a girl! The daughter of a staunch, right-wing bureaucrat whose political party is in the midst of a shocking moral scandal, Laurent is obligated to introduce her priggish parents (who think a big traditional wedding could restore the party's reputation) to his "straight" parents. The fiancee has passed them off as a respected cultural attaché for the Italian embassy and a Catholic housewife/mother of six.
The resulting farcical set-up unleashes a barrage of priceless comic moments as the pair must not only refurnish their "gay-ly" luxorious apartment, which is right above the nightclub, but pass themselves off as heterosexuals. The crème de la crème of all scenes takes place at a restaurant where the somewhat more virile Renato instructs Albin how to drink tea, butter toast, and walk butch á la John Wayne! The dinner party segment too is absolutely crammed with riotous sight gags, especially the erotically-designed soup bowls and shoeless butler bits.
The cast is impeccable. Serrault and Tognazzi are to be cherished for pulling off such an acting coup. Under normal circumstances, these two roles could be hammy, forced and quite offensive. But in the hands of this pair, they are not only funny, but credible and even touching. Serrault, in particular, is a marvel, with every gesture, tone and vocal inflection coming from a real emotional center, while Tognazzi's charming boulevardier provides the perfect "straight" man to Serrault's antics. Together, their "I am what I am" message really hits home. You believe these two as a couple. You believe their longevity. You believe their spats. You believe their devotion.
Michel Galabru and Carmen Scarpitta are superb as the strict, moral-minded parents who slowly come to the horrifying realization that all is not right with their prospective son-in-law's family. Benny Luke has some wonderfully outré moments as the gay couple's barefoot live-in "French maid" who dusts the house in skimpy hot pants and very little else. Claire Maurier is effective as Laurent's estranged mother, who tries to get back in Laurent's good graces by agreeing to be part of the dinner party charade.
Two lesser sequels and an abominable American remake cannot tarnish the beauty of the original. WARNING: When renting this video, make sure you rent the version with sub-titles, not the inferior English-dubbed version. Much of Michel Serrault's magic is in his voice.
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