La Cage aux Folles (1978)

Genres - Comedy, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Farce, Comedy of Errors, Gay & Lesbian Films, Sex Comedy  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - France , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Rebecca Flint Marx

A study in high camp and chaotic hilarity, La Cage aux Folles became America's most successful foreign-language film on its 1978 release. It was also the first gay hit in film history, inspiring not one but two sequels, as well as an American remake, Mike Nichols's The Birdcage (1996). Despite its milestone status, it was denounced by some gay publications, which took issue with its gay and racial stereotypes. La Cage may indeed suffer from shameless stereotyping and other obvious flaws, but as a high farce, it remains a classic. Much of its strength lies in Edouard Molinaro's assured, frenetic direction, as well as in the performances that he draws from his actors. Michel Serrault as Albin provides the film with its heart and soul. Having performed the role over 1700 times in the original stage version, he inhabits Albin like a treasured article of clothing, a well-worn and well-loved second skin. His portrayal reflects the film as a whole: colorful, high-strung, sometimes insufferable, but exceedingly tender-hearted. He and Ugo Tognazzi's Renato make believable, affectionate partners as they dance to the choreography of mounting hysteria, reveling in stereotypes yet imbuing them with considerable sympathy.