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France 1978
Directed by
Edouard Molinaro
110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Cage Aux Folles, La

A huge box-office success in its day La Cage aux Folles which was based on a hit 1973 stage play by Jean Poiret could not be made today, partly because of the political correctness police, partly because the mores of Western society have changed so much since 1978 when the fault line between traditional heterosexual relations and the various LGBTQ subgroups was a yawning chasm.

Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) owns and lives above a Les Girls-type nightclub in St.Tropez where his partner, Albin (Michel Serrault), is the principal star.  When Renato’s son (Rémi Laurent, who died of AIDS in the late ‘80s) announces that he is getting married they find that they have to meet the girl’s parents. Unfortunately both parents are staunch Catholics and the bride-to-be's father (Michel Galabru) is a leading member of a right-wing moral order political party. As both Renato and Albin are conspicuously gay all stops have to come out to conceal the truth from the parents.

Yes, the film does trade on florid stereotypes but that is precisely the fun. Rather than laughing at its protagonists it presents them sympathetically (although this is another level of stereotype) as people happy in their lifestyle choices reserving its mockery for the conventionally straight-laced parents.

Even if the drag scene is now pretty much a thing of the past as a comedy La Cage aux Folles has more laughs than most, with brilliantly carried off set-ups such as Renato schooling Albin in how to butter his toast in a manly way and peaking with the dinner party at which Albin attempts to play a Mrs Doubtfire type matron.  Whilst Tognazzi and Serrault, the latter who had played the part onstage, have a lot of fun with their parts Galabru is a treat as the stuffy fuddy-duddy who ends up well and truly a laughing stock.

FYI: There were two sequels that although they had the same director and stars adhered to the usual law of diminishing returns. The film was remade without as much élan in 1996 as The Birdcage with Robin Williams as the gay husband and Nathan Lane as his "wife" and with Gene Hackman and Dianne Weist as the visiting parents.  Williams, of course, had starred as Mrs Doubtfire in 1993.




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