Title: La Cage aux Folles
Country: France, Italy
Director: Édouard Molinaro
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cinematography: Armando Nannuzzi
An riotous French chamber farce, I have already watched LA CAGE AUX FOLLES II (1980), now finally come across the original one which would spawn a Hollywood remake THE BIRDCAGE (1996) by Mike Nichols and stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane reprise the iconic couple Renato and Albin (Tognazzi and Serrault). It had remained No.1 foreign film in USA box-office for years and nominated for 3 Oscars (BEST DIRECTOR, SCREEN PLAY and COSTUME DESIGN).
Albeit the film’s generic “Meet Your Parents” plot-line, director Molinaro pluckily engineers the sub-culture of homosexuality and transvestite, Renato is the owner of a smoke-enshrouding drag club “La Cage Aux Folles” which is infamous for its alternative performance and target clientele, and Albin, his partner for twenty-years, is a woman trapped in a man’s body and also the premier star of the show. One night Laurent (Rémi Laurent), Renato’s 20-year-old son, arrives and announces that he will marry her sweetheart Andréa (Maneri) and her parents is coming for dinner the next day, the trick is that Andréa’s parents Simon (Galabru) and Louise (Scarpitta) belong to an ultra-moralistic party who just recently lost their president in a prostitute scandal. Under the grilling, Andréa lies about Renato’s real identity and claims him to be a cultural attaché, so to counterbalance the bad image of the party, they decide to operate “a perfect marriage” and meet Laurent’s parents.
Things turn into a predictable but hysterical stew accordingly, Albin makes a fuss of the exclusion of him in the dinner and Renato has to ask aid from Laurent’s birth mother Simone (Maurier), which lights up the jealousy of Albin. But, eventually, the farce will meet its moment of truth. Through and through, all the gags are incredibly conceived (including those with Jesus on the cross), and what’s more gratifying the sublime rapport between Tognazzi and Serrault, together they can make the corniest jest scintillate with vigour and induce involuntary laughters without a hitch. It is a grand showboating for Serrault in particular, his mincing mannerism and effeminate verbalism has been unrivalled since, a true trailblazer for the now stocky stereotype of feminine gay man. To elevate the contrast in beliefs, Galabru also goes out on a limb to caricature and ends up with a side-splitting cross-dressing for amusement. Not to mention Benny Luke as the sissy black butler, who cannot wear shoes because they are trip-easy.
Ennio Morricone’s prominent score triumphantly conjures up the upbeat ambience and tallies with the performance adroitly to indicate the characters’ predicament or ridicule. Indeed, the film is a timeless uproar, and its winning magnetism can appreciated ubiquitously.