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La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Review)

September 23, 2013 by  



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“La Cage aux Folles” is a classic French comedy that people who discover it, fall in love with the film because of its humor and magnificent performances from Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.  Simply delightful and highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2013 Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671

YEAR OF FILM: 1978

DURATION: 96 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:66:1 aspect ratio, Monaural in French, Subtitles: English SDH

COMPANY: United Artists/MGM/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: September 10, 2013

Directed by Edouard Molinaro

Based on a play “La Cage Aux Folles” by Jean Poiret

Screenplay by Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, Jean Poiret

Producer: Marcello Danon

Co-Producer: Jean Nachbaur

Music by Ennio Morricone

Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi

Edited by Monique Isnardon, Robert Isnardon

Production Design by Mario Garbuglia

Set Decoration by Carlo Gervasi

Costume Design by Ambra Danon

Starring:

Ugo Tognazzi as Renato Baldi

Michel Serrault as Albin Mougeotte dit Zaza Napoli

Claire Maurier as Simone Dabelon

Remi Laurent as Laurent Baldi

Carmen Scarpitta as Louise Charrier

Benny Luke as Jacob

Luisa Maneri as Andrea Charrier

Venantino Venantini as Le Chauffer de Charrier

Carlo Reali as Le videur

Guido Cerniglia as Le medecin

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 Saint-Tropez—agree to hide their sexual identities, along with their flamboyant personalities and home decor, when the ultraconservative parents of Renato’s son’s fiancée come for a visit. This elegant comic scenario kicks off a wild and warmhearted French farce about the importance of nonconformity and being true to oneself. 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.

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From the director Edouard Molinaro (“Oscar”, “Beaumarchais the Scoundrel”, “The Birdcage”) and actor/writer Jean Poiret (“The Birdcage”, “The Last Metro”, “Poulet au vinaigre”) comes the 1978 film “La Cage Aux Folles”.  A film which was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Director” and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” and a film that was the #1 foreign film in the US for many years.

A beloved comedy for over three decades, “La Cage Aux Folles” has now received the Blu-ray treatment courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“La Cage Aux Folles” introduces us to Renato Baldi (portrayed by Ugo Tognazzi), the manager of the drag nightclub “La Cage aux Folles” and his main star is Zaza Napoli, a flamboyant and neurotic man who is often complaining about the treatment he gets, but Zaza or his real name Albin Mougeotte (portrayed by Michel Serrault) is a man that wants nothing but reassurance that Renato loves him and is not messing around with another man.

And as Renato is busy with business and maintaining his relationship with Albin, his son Laurent (portrayed by Remi Laurent) has come by to pay a visit and to deliver a surprise to his father and that surprise is he is getting married to Simone (portrayed by Claire Maurier), the daughter of a ultra-conservative diplomat Simon Charrier (portrayed by Michel Galabru) and his wife Louise (portrayed by Carmen Scarpitta).

But Simon has his problems as the president of his conservative party died in the arms of a young, Black prostitute and Simon fears that his career as a conservative leader will be jeopardize by his former president’s indiscretions and must make sure that he and his party maintains a clean conservative image.

As Simone gives her parents the surprise announcement that she is to wed Laurent, both Laurent and Simone want their parents to meet, but because her parents are conservative, Laurent convinces his father that for one day, can he pretend to be a man from a conservative home.

So, that means removing anything that looks flamboyant or showcases his father and Albin’s gay lifestyle around the house.  Of course, Albin has a problem of seeing the house losing its charm and thinks he is being kicked out of the house but Renato tries to calm him and tell him that he is not being kicked out but he’s trying to do this for Laurent.

Albin says he can be Laurent’s uncle but the problem is that Albin is not masculine and as Renato tells him to be have like John Wayne, instead he behaves more like Miss John Wayne.

Will Renato and Albin be ready for the face-to-face meeting with Simone’s parents?

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VIDEO:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio) in black and white. Compared to the original MGM DVD release, there are quite a few differences one will notice with this 2013 release. For one, how much clearer the video is, without any blurring. Also, noticeable is the contrast and better colors.   black levels are nice and deep. But the most important change would be fact that the film no longer has any signs of dirt, scratches or any marks.  The Criterion Collection has done a magnificent job with clean up.  And this Blu-ray release is the best looking version of this film yet.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K film scanner from a 35 mm interpositive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Image Systems’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.

AUDIO/SUBTITLES:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671” is presented in English LPCM 1.0 and features subtitles in English SDH.  Dialogue and musical score by Ennio Morricone is clean and clear.  I did not notice any hissing or pops during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Cage aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671” comes with the following special features:

  • Edouard Molinaro – (18:33) Featuring a 2013 interview with director Edouard Molinaro.
  • Archival Footage – Archival footage featuring actor Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret, writer and star of the original stage production of “La Cage aux Folles”Featuring “Les antiquaires” (7:02), “Le monsieur qui veut vendre sa viture” (6:16) and “La Cage aux Folles” (10:24).
  • Laurence Senelick – (22:47) Interview with Laurence Senelick, author of “The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre“.
  • Trailers – (4:05) Featuring the original English and French trailers for “La Cage aux Folles”.

EXTRAS:

“La Cage Aux Folles – The Criterion Collection #671” comes with a 16-page booklet featuring the essay “Folles Family Values” by David Ehrenstein and a March 29, 1942 New York Times article “Lubitsch Answers his Critics”.

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A delightful comedy from director Edouard Molinaro and featuring a masterful performance from Michel Serrault.

“La Cage aux Folles” is a French film like no other.  A comedy that has stood the test of time and continues to be a cult film that holds up over 30-years later and despite an American remake known as “The Birdcage”, it’s the original film that remains a French comedy classic.

The film still remains fresh for me after all these years, from the music of Ennio Morricone, Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi playing the role of the manager, Renato Baldi, of the drag club “La Cage aux Folles” and trying to keep the business running but he knows that his boyfriend and the star of the show, Zaza/Albin is important to him.

But as these two have been together all these years and have grown old together, Albin is somewhat of a person who panics and thinks of the negative.  He is not getting the compliments and tends to throw a tantrum nightly before his performance, wondering if Renato loves him.  And as much as Ugo tries to keep their relationship together and deal with Albin’s pessimism, things are heightened when Renato’s son Laurent comes to visit and has big news.

Laurent is getting married to a woman and she happens to be the daughter an ultra-conservative diplomat and that her parents want to meet his family.  But there are things that need to be done in order to make it happen, his father would need to make his flamboyant home to be cleaned up of anything that may give away that his father is gay, to see if his father can have his mother (who he had not seen for years) there and most importantly, to make sure Albin is not there, because he can ruin the special occasion.

Of course, this does not set well with Albin who automatically thinks he’s being kicked out of Renato’s home and worse, trying to hook up with the woman he got pregnant.   But if anything, Albin feels he should be there because he practically help raise Laurent since he was born and his mother was not even there for him.

The performance and emotional swings courtesy of actor Michel Serrault as Albin is hilarious as he wants to be himself, but for Laurent’s sake, tries to be like a man, which is not easy as he has his own way of walking, his own way of sipping tea and sitting on a chair.

So, it’s how this longtime gay couple, have to hide their homosexuality for Laurent’s girlfriend’s parents and to make them think they live a normal life.  And the results are just hilarious.

There are small things that you can’t help but laugh because of the comedy.  From the gay black maid/butler named Jacob (portrayed by Benny Luke), who must do all he can to pretend he is a masculine Black man and when he tries, he tends to overdo it.    But hilarity always ensues when he shows up on screen.

But the whole experience of trying to have a perfect evening is tested when unexpected situations keep happening.

For those who are familiar with “The Bird Cage”, it’s best not to compare the two films despite the American version is based on this film.  The results are different and the performance of the original film is greater, more delightful than its American remake.

Molinaro’s film is able to showcase a film that is progressive and a lifestyle of a gay couple who had raised a straight son, engaged to the daughter of an ultra-conservative diplomat.  I really enjoyed the film for how its able to capture humor but also showing two men who care greatly for each other without forcing anything political to the audience.  There is no agenda with this film, it’s an enjoyable comedy!

As for the Blu-ray release, The Criterion Collection has done a great job with the remastering of this film.  As details and colors are much better, also the overall look is cleaner and visually an improvement over the older MGM DVD.  Also, the dialogue and Ennio Moriccone musical score sound clear and the soundtrack features no audible hiss or any audio problems.  Also, there are archival features plus a 2013 interview with director Edouard Molinaro and more!

If anything, I can only hope that The Criterion Collection releases “La Cage Aux Folles 2”, as the sequel is also hilarious and enjoyable as well!

Overall, “La Cage aux Folles” is a classic French comedy that people who discover it, fall in love with the film because of its humor and magnificent performances from Michel Serrault and Ugo Tognazzi.  Simply delightful and highly recommended!






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