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The Mad Cage

(1978, Molinaro)
A film from the 1970s

"Forgive me, but you're just a bitter old bitch. You've lost your sex appeal, you're grotesque, and everyone laughs at you. Yet here I am, still at your side, because you make me laugh. So you know what I'm going to do? Sell my plot in Lombardy and lie by you here in the s-hit in Foissy so we can go on laughing."

That's how Renato (Ugo Tognazzi) makes his case to his longtime partner and lover, Albin (Michel Serrault) after he decides to leave the household. There's a bit of zing there, but there's also a lot of nuanced emotion and ultimately a firm statement of compromise and care for each other; it doesn't matter what has happened or what happens, I've stuck with you and I'll still stick with you through it all.

La Cage aux Folles follows the lives of Renato and Albin, who've been together for 20 years. Through ups and downs, loyalties and infidelities, they've stuck together, living together, while managing the titular nightclub. But their lives are shaken when Renato's young son, Laurent (Rémi Laurent) announces he's getting married. The thing is that his fiancée is the daughter of an important and ultra-conservative politician, and they want to meet them.

In order to pretend a more "normal" life to his future in-laws, Laurent convinces his father to pretend he's not gay, remodel their apartment, but also to get rid of the more "flamboyant" Albin for the time of the visit. This sparks the above exchange after Albin dejectedly decides to leave.

But therein lies the main problem for me with the film. There's no denying that Laurent's move is ultimately selfish and insensitive, particularly since we're told that Albin helped to raise him, and although I can understand Laurent's concerns and fears, as the film progresses, there's no moment where that is acknowledged as a mistake from his part. Different times, I guess, but since acceptance and tolerance is the ultimate point of the film, it seems weird that they didn't own to that.

There are other issues, particularly between Laurent and his real mother, that are brushed over and never addressed as well, but besides that, the film is pretty solid and enjoyable. I had seen The Birdcage back in the 90s, so I knew most of the beats the film would follow, which probably had an impact in how much I laughed or not, but I still enjoyed it. Part of that is on the performances. Tognazzi is excellent in the lead role, and his chemistry with Serrault is undeniable.

Maybe some of my complaints might seem silly, since the film is obviously aiming more for the comedy and the slapstick, but moments like the above exchange let out a more emotional angle to the story that I wish would've been embraced more. As it is, I'll lie here so I can go on laughing.