Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present screenings of the milestone Oscar-nominated French comedy, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, as part of the Anniversary Classics Abroad program. The screenings mark the 40th anniversary of the American release in 1979, as well as noting LGBTQ Pride Month, and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, based on a hit French stage farce by Jean Poiret, was adapted for the screen by Poiret, Francis Veber, Marcello Dano, and Edouard Molinaro, who also directed. The “birds of a feather” story concerns a gay couple in St. Tropez, Renato (played by the veteran Italian actor Ugo Tognazzi), the owner of a drag-performance nightclub, and his high-strung headliner partner Albin (French comic Michel Serrault). Their twenty-year relationship is turned upside down when Renato’s son, who had been raised jointly by Renato and Albin, announces he is about to marry the daughter of the ultra-conservative Minister of Moral Standards. Complications and hilarity ensue when Renato and his son attempt to mask the true nature of Renato and Albin’s partnership for the prospective in-laws.
The film received mixed reviews in the United States, ranging from Roger Ebert’s enthusiastic embrace (“the comic turns in the plot are achieved with such clockwork timing that sometimes we’re laughing at what’s funny and sometimes we’re just laughing at the movie’s sheer comic invention. This is a great time at the movies.”), to lesser notices from some critics who were out-of-sync with the film’s social satire, sight gags, one-liners, deadpan reactions, and “tawdry burlesque.” Director Molinaro deftly orchestrated the game cast in this range of comedic devices. The movie was named the year’s best foreign film by both the National Board of Review and the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globe). The accolades were crowned by three Academy Award nominations, including Best Costume Design (Piero Tosi, Ambra Danon), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director.
The film’s roaring success at the box office (it played at one New York theater for over a year, and broke out of the art houses to success in regular commercial theaters) has been attributed to its positive depiction of the central gay characters, the protagonists of the story, a rarity in the era. Although comparatively old-fashioned in its portrayals to contemporary standards, its importance in LGBTQ entertainment history is undisputed. The film spawned two sequels, a hit Broadway musical, and Hollywood remake, ‘The Birdcage’ (1996), that was also a box-office smash. Notably, the success of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES paved the way for a number of high profile, gay-themed, and gender-bending Hollywood studio films in the early ’80s, including ‘Making Love,’ ‘Victor/Victoria’ and ‘Tootsie.’
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES screens Wednesday, June 19th at 7pm in Glendale, Pasadena, and West LA. Click here for tickets.