The Painter and the Thief
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Typically, when I see both a foreign film and its American re-make, whichever one I saw first would take precedence as my favorite. That is the case The Birdcage, because I saw the remake decades before watching this version. However, I wonder if I would even like La Cage aux Folles all that much even if it came first. The big problem with this film is that the comedy was not clicking for me. I could see the same components being thrown together that would later be reinterpreted by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, so it had the structure of a joke, but there was not much of it that came through as humorous for me. Something didn’t translate. My other big problem with this film is how long it takes to get to the good stuff. In my opinion, the magic of this story is in the dinner between the highly conservative family, and the alternative family that is desperately pretending to be just as conservative. My only laughs came in this section, and it was so brief that I didn’t feel like they capitalized on the opportunity before them. I suppose La Cage aux Folles should be commended more than The Birdcage because it presented these alternative lifestyles as a normal family almost 2 decades earlier, but I never felt they had the big payoff at the end to show us that Renato and Albin should be accepted as they are, which I’d think would be the point of the whole thing. I can never go back in time and see if La Cage aux Folles would be a success for me with no knowledge of The Birdcage, so I have to settle for the fact that there’s only one of these films that I’d ever want to watch again (and it’s not this one.)
A classic. Revolutionary LGBTQ cinema for it's time.
At the centre of the movie is the happy/sad/loving/tempestuous/ touching relationship between Albin and Renato, achieved by the wonderful rapport between the two leads. Music score adds to the story-telling. Triomphe!
You know, one of the best things I've done this year is to buy a book called "Cult Movies" by a guy named Danny Peary. He wrote three of these books, and I own all of them. I like buying books that are more or less lists with commentary, since it gives me more films to check out. Peary's book is special though. I'd already seen almost half of the 200 movies that span his three books, but as I've been watching others and reading his commentary I've found myself learning a lot about the art of cinema that I never really get from my other favorite reviewers. Peary comes off as sort of half professor, half filmmaker, and half fun cult movie fan (and obviously I'm not half a mathematician). This means that his reviews reveal a real zealot's fondness for cinema, while still being almost completely detached enough to critique something for what it is without factoring in a reputation. Take this film for example. The film is by far one of the most successful foreign films ever made, and a highly respected one as well. Peary acknowledges these things, but he doesn't let the film get off easy. Much like another huge French cult comedy classic I saw recently (King of Hearts), Peary has a lot to say about how bad the direction is in this film and how much better it could have been with improvements. He argues that the director, Eduoard Molinaro treats his characters shallowly, which makes the comedy less effective. This is true. He also argues that the movie is clearly made for a straight audience (not an opinion you see a lot) since most of the jokes are at the expense of the gays, and that the characters are terrible in general. He rightly calls the plot trite, and issues one of his most frequent complaints on comedy films, which is that the director never lets the scenes run long enough for the gags to develop sufficiently. I have this problem just as much as Peary does. I've gotten to the point where I've realized that my dissatisfaction with a lot of comedy films that just aren't good enough is that they do not push the joke far enough for it to get funny. The dinner scene in this film is a fine example, since it has all sorts of potential to be hilarious (an example of a good version of a somewhat similar scenario is Peter Sellers' dinner experience in Blake Edward's "The Party"), but ultimately fails because as Peary states, it "dribbles to a conclusion before it really gets started."
This is something else I love about Peary's books. The movies he surveys are not all great, in fact many of them through a sober lens of film criticism are downright awful. But there are many gems to be found in the cult movie canon even when the film isn't completely executed correctly. I generally enjoyed watching La Cage Aux Folles despite the issues with it. I'm just glad to have a new companion in Peary to take me through some of cinema's highs and lows that is teaching me so much about the art I never knew. Films like this are a fine representative of some of the "mixed blessing" movies in Peary's books. They have so much potential, but without the brilliant direction needed for a brilliant film they fail to achieve little more than mild cult appeal. There are many lessons to be learned here.
A gaudy little French farce whose charm influenced the American remake decades later.
Damn. I always knew 'The Birdcage' was a remake of this film but I didn't know until tonight just how closely that remake followed the scene for scene breakdown of this film. What makes that fact so remarkable though is how ahead of the game that means this original film was in terms of putting homosexuality front and center on the big screen.
A part of me wishes I had seen this one first so I could see and be surprised by its twists and turns as they happened, but regardless of knowing the plot it still kills with a perfect blend of humor and heart.
Other bonus points for Laurent being the biggest dreamboat imaginable!
One of the funniest French movies I've seen.
I'm wondering why the description of this french farce is in Spanish?!?!?!
Very groundbreaking for its time; this movie rides on its funny characters and funny situations. Recommended
An riotous French chamber farce, I have already watched LA CAGE AUX FOLLES II (1980, 7/10), now finally come across the original one which would spawn a Hollywood remake THE BIRDCAGE (1996) by Mike Nichols and stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane reprise the iconic couple Renato and Albin (Tognazzi and Serrault). It had remained No.1 foreign film in USA box-office for years and nominated for 3 Oscars (BEST DIRECTOR, SCREEN PLAY and COSTUME DESIGN).
read rest of my review on my blog: http://wp.me/p1eXom-1MN