La Cage aux Folles

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Dec 06, 2013
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Edouard Molinaro

Release Date(s)

1978 (September 10, 2013)

Studio(s)

United Artists/MGM (Criterion - Spine #671)

Review

La Cage aux Folles began life as a successful 1973 play by Jean Poiret and was later adapted into a feature film.  Directed by Edouard Molinaro and released in 1978, the film helped knock down more barriers and bring homosexuality into a more positive light than previously seen.  The film was a great success, especially in the United States, and is held up high as one of the funniest and most provocative situational comedies ever made.

La Cage aux Folles tells the story of a gay couple living in St. Tropez who own a successful night club.  Their 20-year-old son decides to wed a young girl whose parents are conservatives, and it’s up to the couple to try and put aside their differences and make the girl’s parents believe that they too are a conservative husband and wife.

The film’s power lies in how a film like it had never been made, and its subject matter had certainly never been brought to life so vividly, and was a major part of the film.  It was taboo, which seemed to also play into the film’s success.  The chemistry between actors Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault is quite superb, and it’s the crowning achievement of the entire film, in my opinion.  If it weren’t for their performances, the film wouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

And while I do have to admit that I am sort of partial to the remake entitled The Birdcage made in 1996 by Mike Nichols, I can’t deny how good La Cage aux Folles is and I can’t honestly state that one is better than the other.  Both films feature terrific performances from an ensemble cast, both have wonderful scores and music numbers and, while they’re approached in different ways, the style and direction of each film is terrific.  And even though it’s the same story with the same outcome, there are still minor tweaks to the story here and there between each version, but none take anything away from each other.  And even though I prefer the remake, La Cage aux Folles is still a classic film that’s definitely worth watching more than once.

For the film’s debut on Blu-ray via Criterion, the film has been given a new 2K transfer from a 35mm interpositive.  The result is a spectacular looking upgrade from the previous MGM DVD release of the film.  And while it does have an intentional soft look to it, the overall picture quality is quite sharp.  Grain is very stable, there’s an abundance of image detail, colors are great, blacks are mostly deep, and both contrast and brightness are very good.  There are some minor film artifacts left over, but nothing too noticeable.  Skin tones don’t always look their best either, but overall, it’s a very impressive picture on display.  The film’s soundtrack, which is a French uncompressed mono track, is well-balanced and very clean.  It shows its age a little, but dialogue is clean and clear, as are sound effects and score.  Nothing ever sounds muddled or distorted, and the English subtitles were very good and easy to follow along with.

Extras include a new interview with director Edouard Molinaro; archival footage with actor Michel Serrault and Jean Poiret, writer and star of the original stage production; a new interview with Laurence Senelick, author of “The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre”; both the French and U.S. theatrical trailers; and a 12-page booklet with an essay by critic David Ehrenstein.  So the extras are a little on the sparse side, but there’s some good stuff in here to dig into.

La Cage aux Folles continues to be a funny and well-regarded film among audiences today, and with Criterion’s treatment of it, you’ll find a very pleasant home-viewing experience indeed.

- Tim Salmons

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