La Cage aux FollesOverview -
Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and Albin (Michel Serrault)—a middle-aged gay couple who are the manager and star performer at a glitzy drag club in St. Tropez—agree to hide their sexual identities, along with their flamboyant personalities and home decor, when the ultraconservative parents of Renato's son's fiancee come for a visit. This elegant comic scenario kicks off a wild and warmhearted farce about the importance of nonconformity and the beauty of being true to oneself. A modest French comedy that became a breakout art-house smash in America, Edouard Molinaro's La Cage aux Folles inspired a major Broadway musical and the blockbuster remake The Birdcage. But with its hilarious performances and ahead-of-its-time social message, there's nothing like the audacious, dazzling original movie.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
You've seen this movie before. You've just never seen this version, which is the original, based on the Broadway play of the same name. I'm of course talking about the 1996 film, 'The Birdcage', which starred Robin Willams, Gene Hackman, and Nathan Lane. 'La Cage Aux Folles' is the same movie with the same characters and storyline. In this case, the film was made in 1976 in the French language and still covers the same issues of tolerance and acceptance of race, creed, sexual orientation, and religion. Not to mention the non-stop laughs this movie packs.
The owner of La Cage Aux Folles, which is the best drag club in St. Tropez, is Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) and his life partner Albin (Michael Serrault), who is also the wild club's headline star. Life is good, flamboyant, and rich with the two as they live in a luxurious condo above their own nightclub. However, when Renato's twenty-something son shows up and says he's engaged and that his fiancee's parents want to meet their future in-laws, things get a bit hairy.
You see, these future in-laws are leaders of a political party with a system of beliefs that are ultra conservative. Needless to say, the homosexual movement, drag shows, and art with nudity is not in their forte. So when Renato's son asks that his father re-decorate the house in a more conservative matter and asks that his "mother" (Albin) not be present at their first meeting and dinner, but instead invites his biological mother -- who has not seen him since birth, there are a bunch of awkward and comical moments between our very likable characters.
However, after the flamboyant bedsheets are replaced, and the naked art is taken down, the biological mother informs her son that she will not be able to make it to the big dinner. So in a failed effort to turn Albin into the macho uncle character, Albin transforms into a conservative mother type figure, complete with conservative clothing and wig. Even their silly and fumbling butler has a laugh at this. But when someone tips off the press that the head of the conservative political party might be at the famed La Cage Aux Folles nightclub, the conservatives must turn to drag themselves to escape a political scandal of epic proportions.
'La Cage Aux Folles' was very ahead of its time and was one of the first films that dealt with these social issues of acceptance of sexual orientation in a charming and comical manner. I really feel like this film and its remake teaches us to be tolerant and accept all walks of life, no matter what you're into and not to judge by the color of your skin or who you prefer sexually, but by the content of your character. Because in the end, we are all basically the same. The movie is light hearted, funny and has a great soundtrack composed by the famous Ennio Morricone.
'La Cage Aux Folles' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This is a new digital transfer from Criterion and was created in 2k resolution on a 4k film scanner from a 35mm interpositive. All of the dirt, hairs, scratches, and debris have been removed manually. This Blu-Ray is a huge improvement on the DVD that was released several years ago.
The colors pop off screen and have a nice and inviting warm touch to them. The skin tones are natural and smooth with the black levels running deep and inky. The detail looks very fine with great closeups that feature detailed makeup lines and wrinkles. The costumes that the drag queens wear in the nightclub look amazing as you can make out every stitch and sequin.
From time to time, the detail of the overall sharpness goes a little soft, but nothing really noticeable that would take you out of the element of watching. There are no compression issues really to speak of and the video is free of banding and aliasing. If you're a fan of the film, this is the best this has ever looked. Great job Criterion.
This release has a lossless French LPCM 1.0 mono audio mix and sounds great for what it is. I really wish there was also an option for 5.1 on these releases. Particularly this one, as there is some great music and tons of musical numbers in the nightclub. The English sub-titles are good as well. The dialogue is crystal clear and free of any scratches, pops, cracks, or hissing. The scenes where music is prominent is where this audio mix is the best. There is a good bit of depth in it, and has a well-balanced dynamic range. This is a solid audio presentation.
- Interview with Edouard Molinaro (HD, 20 mins) - Here is an interview from 2013 with the director Edouard Molinaro, where he discusses how he made the film. He goes into detail about what a pain in the ass actor Ugo Tognazzi was on and off set during the production. This is a great interview.
- Archival Footage (HD, 30 mins) - Here is an interesting extra that features old archival footage of actors Jean Poriet and Michael Serrault, who actually appeared in the stage version of 'La Cage Aux Folles'. Here we see excerpts from the stage version and a couple of other original television programs that features the two actors.
- Interview with Laurence Senelick (HD, 24 mins) - This is also a new interview that was made in 2013 with writer Laurence Senelick, who discusses the origins of drag theatre and its transformation into what it is today, as well as the film itself. Great interview.
- Trailers (HD, 5 mins) -Two trailers for the film.
- Criterion Booklet - An illustrated booklet with essays, interviews, and Blu-Ray specs.
'La Cage Aux Folles' is one of the better film adaptations of a stage production. Even its 1996 remake was great. Criterion truly knocked it out of the park with this release. It has top notch video and audio presentations with some great new interviews with the people involved making this movie. This is one Blu-Ray you'll want to own. Highly recommended.
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