Page 6--Friday, September 28, 1979-The Michigan Daily
LA CA GE A UX FOLLES'
Triumph of the wit
By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
LA Cage Aux Folles is bound to
unleash the ire of stauncher gay rights
supporters. Though this bittersweet
comedy about gay life is openly sym-
pathetic to homosexuals, it trafficks in
some disarmingly out-moded cliches:
The gays all dangle their hands from
half-cocked arms, suspend pinkies in
mid-air while daintily sipping their tea,
and parade about in silky chemises and
outrageous undergarments, dyed
lavender and hot pink.
Still, La Cage shouldn't be-dismissed
as a bundle of anachronisms. Beneath
its more obvious sociological shor-
tcomings flows an engaging com-
passion for people trapped in something
less than the best of all possible worlds.
Even after parades of mincing tran-
svestities and a farcial guess-who's-
coming-to-dinner scene, the characters
emerge not as walking comic stick-
figures but as real human beings.
Given the setting-a ritzy Saint-
Tropez nightclub that features flam-
boyant female impersonators - the
filmmakers could have done worse. The
club's two proprietors, Albin (Michael
Serrault) and Renato (Ugo Tognazi),
are a "happily married" middle-aged
gay couple who've taken on traditional
husband-wife roles: Renato is the sweet
but somewhat gruff "man" of the
house, who's dickered with
heterosexuality (producing a son in the
process) and learned to act straight for
the world at large; Albin, Renato's
lover of 20 years, is the club's
headlining drag-queen, and so ef-
feminately cuddly that one fastforgets
he looks like the head of a local chapter
of the Teamsters.
La Cage opens with an eerily
beautiful sequence, a grand tran-
svestite tango that might have come
from a Bertolucci .remake'of Cabaret.
The nightclub, La Cage Aux Folles
(Which I've heard translated as both
"Cage of Crazy Ladies" and "Birds of a
Feather"), is saturated with the
lascivious grins of lipsticked men, and
the seedy thrill of voyeurism. It's too
bad the filmmakers didn't give us a bet-
ter look at the patrons, or pour more
razzle-dazzle into the stage acts. But
there was no holding back on one count:
The performers are so deliriously out
of their closets that the rest of society
seems nowhere in sight.
Actually, its just around the bend.
Renato's son wants to marry the
daughter of the Secretary of Moral Or-
der, a sternly conservative stuffed-shirt
under the delusion that his future son-
in-law's father is a high-ranking public
official. Should he get any idea that the
boy's "parents" are two aging
homosexuals who decorate their apar-
tment with phallic statues, the
marriage is finis.
La Cage uses this rather shopworn
farce of a plot to summon up some of
the more poignant problems of gay life.
The story turns on whether Renato and
'Albin can bluff the Secretary, but direc-
FR I. "f
SAT. the O6 h
L i - PG
Stanley Kubrick's Classic
'4 CLOCKWORK ORA
R R MR. BILL SHOW
tor Eduoard Molinari is sensitive to
ask, Should they even lave to? Albin's
refusal to play the game by the
straights' rules, even br his "son's"
marriage, seeme selfishV petty at first,
but later a noble asserthn of personal
identity. Albin isn't a crusader. He's
just so thoroughly himsef, right down
to his ultra-delicate buttering of a slice
of toast, that he's irresistaile.
Some of the humor falls grey to bom-
bast. The mincing black maid, who em-
bodies every flitty gay stereotype in the
books, is an unwelcome exaggeration,
even for farce, and unfumy besides.
The Secretary, a raving, foaming-at-
the-mouth homophobe, is an equally.
useless caricature, who's set up for a'~..
huge, sprawling pratfall when Renato
and Albin try to pass themselves off as
husband and wife. Forcing him to
saunter through the nightclub in drag is
nothing more than a psychological tar-'
and-feathering, a contrived excuse to',
see the oppressor with his pants down.
STILL, most of the movie's 'less
socially redeeming humor is hilarious.
As Albin, an earnest bon vivant with a
streak of infantile exhibitionism a mile
wide, Michael Serrault gives a brilliant'
comic performance. Aping John
Wayne's macho Strut, he's sublimely
ridiculous; in drag, he comes on with
all the decadent spelendour of Pink
Flamingoes' infamous fag-hag, Divine.
Like most of the French movies that
reach these shores, La Cage is light
fare, a spiffy dessert of a movie. Mere'
lip service is paid to Albin and Renato's
sex life, as if depictingthe complexities
of a physical relationship might cloud
the film's simple, gay-is-good
message. Still, by cater.ng'to a f ew mid=
die-class notions of honosexual styles,
La Cage may prove more immediately
vital to the gay cause than a purely
realistic portrayal. Gays tempteqd to
write off a film of this much warmth
and honesty as an offensive cliche
would be wise to remember one thing:
In a few years, they'll probably be get-
ting their own sitcoms.
ALl: FEAR EATS'
Fdssbinder's most accessible film to date.1
woman and a 30 year old Moroccon work
must face the spectrum of reactions toc
societal taboos. Perhaps the best film to+
last 20 years. German, with subtitles. (94 mi
ANGELL HALL .
Applications being taken for New Members.
T HE SOUL Ir
The story of a 60-ish cle
ker who fall in love but
a relationship which vio
come out of Germany it
Frida Spt 28e~ PM
Arbor Jazz Festival Fri. Sept. 27
HOURS: MON -SAT; 10 -6 ,SUN; 12 - 8
'6523 E. Liberty
~,j 7~pe5 514Y E. William
(Please bring EMPTY record jackets for autographs)
dies at 81
ROME (Reuter) - British enter-
tainer Gracie Fields, who died today at
her home on the jsland of Capri at the
age of 81, was so much a part of the
English scene that she was known to
millions of Britons simply as "Our
Born over a fish and chip shop in the
drab industrial city of Rochi iale, she
became a giant of the British nfusic hall
and a talented singer-comedienne who
appeared in films and on television.
SINGING IN a croaky Lancashire
dialect or with the clipped voice of
Britain's high society, Fields., had the
gift of moving audiences from tears to
laughter in minutes.
Although she was always identified
as a "very English performer," she had
lived in Capri for many' ears and two
of her three husbands were not British.
She made only occasional visits to her
native land but invariably received a
Fields was best known for her
nostalgic songs about the late Victorian
period into which she was bprn on Jan.
9, 1898. Her song about the lowly
aspidistri plant - a symbol of Victorian
households - was so successful in
modern Britain that horticulturists
claim she helped the broad-leafed plant
become popular again.
SHE SANG IN public for the first
time at the age of seven at a music hall
in her native Rochdale, where she was
born Grace Stansfield.
Her success brought a change of
name and an ambition to become an in-
Some of the songs she made famous
were "Sally," "The Biggest Aspidistra
in the World," "Bless This House" and
"Alfie." Her films included "He Was
Her Man," "We're Going to be Rich,"
and "Sally in our Alley."
SUN., SEPT. 30
SUN., OCT. 7
AUD "B"(note change)
Mar'on Brondo ploys Sir William Walker, a cynical Tree-,ance secret agent and
adventurer who is hired by the British government to dismantle Portugal's
sugar trade monopoly in its caribbean Island colony of Queimoda. Sir William
came to the same strotetic conclusion in the 1840s as did the Pentagon in the
1960's, that the way to fight a guerrilla movement with a broad popular base
is to fight the people themselves. Thus in both cases we see used as routine
weapons widespread torture and executions, the recruitment of native mer-
cenarv armies to kill their own people, the razing of villooes. the destruction of
crops. And both colonial warmakers were forced to learn the some lesson,
that the bottle against an ideal cannot be won by force of arms.
Nicaragua: Patria Libre 0 Morir
Film beings with scenes of Fall 1978 uprising by FSLN explores history of
intervention in Nicaragua and role Os Sandino-Eden Pastoro (Commandante
Cero) discusses organization and armed struggle interviews women and men
MM, > V