For Reel

La Cage aux Folles (1978)
October 27, 2015, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Édouard Molinaro
3 Stars
La Cage aux FollesAt the time of its release, La Cage aux Folles found enormous and somewhat unexpected mainstream success internationally, garnering several Academy Award nominations and for a time becoming the highest-grossing foreign language film in North America. Although a far cry away politically from films like those of the New Queer Cinema movement in the early 90s, it was somewhat of an outlier on this scale for so liberally depicting gay characters (though filmmakers like Kenneth Anger had been making gay experimental films for over a decade at the time of its release). Unfortunately, time has not been so kind to the picture, and the very “otherness” that defines the gay community in this film does ring with a certain condescension. If the film earns some laughs, they are often no more sophisticated than the set up of a man acting effeminately. Problematically, the central relationship (involving Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault) is portrayed empathetically but rather sexless–while the film has the nerve to depict a gay couple as a typically complicated relationship, it bypasses the physicality. The characters not only rarely touch, but they don’t seem very interested in doing so. Serrault, as the flamboyant lover, has a nice sequence when he tries to appear straight by donning a suit. He’s making an effort, but the sense of discomfort of exaggerated. As much as his character is played for laughs, it is this scene that demonstrates that his extravagance is simply his nature, and to rob him of that would be cruelty.

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