Friday, January 8, 2016

Love is For the Birds

This is my entry in the France on Film Blogathon sponsored by Serendipitous Anachronisms

The French film is one that gets ignored quite often by the general American public, partly due to the average American not being well versed in French.  Of course, you could watch them dubbed, but one thing about watching it dubbed, you miss out on the actual actors and actresses voices.  In the case of La Cage aux Folles, nothing is more important than that one thing.  Believe me.  I tried to watch it dubbed, and while it was easier to follow than reading subtitles, if you watch it dubbed you only get the facial expressions, you don't get the nuances of the actors.

La Cage aux Folles (1978)

La Cage aux Folles was originally a play by Jean Poiret.   Michel Serrault, who originated the role of Albin on stage at Theatre de Palais Royal, returned to portray him in the film.  The movie was a cooperation effort between France and Italy, thus the original character of Georges in the play is renamed Renato Baldi and played by Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi.

If you come to this movie expecting to see something similar to Mike Nichol's remake, The Birdcage, you may be disappointed.  True, it is basically the same plot, but whereas The Birdcage was flashier and with not a few over-the-top performances, La Cage aux Folles is more subdued.  Still, Serrault's portrayal of Albin will garner more than a few laughs.

The story begins with the revue at a nightclub called, fittingly, La Cage aux Folles.  The master of ceremonies is in a dither because "Zaza" (Albin's stage name) has not come down from the dressing room.  Renato and Albin's doctor go to check on him.  Albin is frustrated because he feels unwanted and unloved.

Renato treats Albin with paternal patience, but Albin is convinced Renato is seeing someone else.  While Albin is on stage, Renato does see someone else, but it is his son.  Renato had a one night affair with a fellow actress 20 years earlier, even though Renato was gay even then,  which produced a son,   Laurent (Remi Laurent)  is straight and has met the girl of his dreams, Andrea (Luisa Maneri).


Andrea is the daughter of an ultraconservative government representative, Simon Charrier, and his wife, Louise (Michel Galabru, Carmen Scarpitta).  Off screen,  Simon's boss, the leader of a moral order conservative group, dies of a heart attack in the arms of an underage black prostitute.  This causes no end of problems with Simon and the press, so he decides to take the family to meet Laurent's "parents".  (He has been told by Andrea that Renato is a diplomat, and has conveniently failed to mention that he is gay and has a gay partner.)

Laurent tries to convince his father to send Albin away for a couple of days and tries to enlist his biological mother to come so they can pose as his parents.  Albin becomes emotionally distraught at the thought, since he is already feeling unwanted.  So Renato tries to transform him from a mincing, effeminate man to a macho man so he could stay as Laurent's uncle, still having Laurent's real mom pose with Renato as a valid married couple. The transformation doesn't go well, but unbeknownst to anyone, Albin has dressed up in women's clothes and poses as Laurent's mother.

The last part of this movie is among the most hilarious scenes ever.   Serrault is fantastic as a man posing as a woman.  And Galabru's reactions as he realizes what is going on are memorable.  

 The movie got an Oscar nod for best director (Edouard Molinaro) as well as Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Costume Design, but failed to win any.  The movie spawned two sequels, both of which had Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi reprising their roles.

Until next time, drive safely.



  1. I've not seen this film, but it's one that I keep meaning to watch. You've prompted me to make it more of a priority. :)

    As an aside, I know what you mean about dubbing foreign films. I LOATHE dubbing. I would much rather read subtitles, as tiring as that can be sometimes...

  2. This film is so much fun, it is the first French film I remember seeing on VHS as a kid! Thank you for sharing such a great classic with The France On Film Blogathon!


  3. I haven't seen this picture yet, but I have seen the American remake. I usually shudder at the thought of a remake, but when I saw The Birdcage, I didn't have access to a wide variety of films, and I pretty much enjoyed it. A few years ago, I did catch a part of La Cage aux Folles, and what you said about its being subdued is so right. I had expected it to have a similar (yet less flashy) feel to the remake. It doesn't at all.

    You made a good point about dubbed pictures; you miss too much! I'll just read the subtitles. After a short while, I feel like the subtitle section of my brain just kicks in, and I'm no longer conscious of reading them. I laugh at myself when I turn up the volume of foreign films as if I might miss a word. But I always want to hear the original actors.

    (I'm Spontaneous Whimsy, by the way. I couldn't get it to take my sign-in through Wordpress.)

    1. I saw The Birdcage when it came out in the theater, (no pun intended...), but I used this blogathon to finally motivate myself to watching the original. I think it's always a good idea to see what inspired people which is why I've watched my fair share of Kurosawa, even though like French, I don't understand a word of Japanese. Thanks for the good words.


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