Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Feathered: The La Cage Trilogy
Long before Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie dreamed of his red heel shoes, another series of films first introduced mainstream audiences to the world of drag life. Back in 1978, the French farce La Cage aux Folles caused a sensation in its native France and abroad, going on to become an unexpected box office smash, nab three Oscar nominations and spawn a pair of sequels. This weekend, with everybody talking about Jamie, we suggest revisiting the film trilogy that foreshadowed the future success of The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, To Wong Foo and of course RuPaul’s Drag Race.
La Cage aux Folles follows the story of Renato and Albin (Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault), a longtime gay couple and proprietors of a drag nightclub in Saint-Tropez. Albin headlines the club each night as the show’s main act. The pair have raised a son, Laurent (Rémi Laurent) together, and when the now-grown Laurent wants to introduce his fiancee and conservative parents to his dear old dads, hilarity ensues.
If the premise sounds similar, that’s probably no coincidence: Hollywood remade the film as The Birdcage in 1996, which follows the same plot rather closely.
Unlike The Birdcage, however, the antics of Renato and Albin continued in 1980 with La Cage aux Folles II, a sequel that picks up the action a few years later. Albin & Renato plan a trip to the country to visit Renato’s aged mother–a tenuous proposition given Albin’s flamboyant effeminacy and habit of cross-dressing. Along the way, Albin happens to come into possession of a tube of microfilm which attracts the attention of an international spy ring and a team of government agents. La Cage aux Folles III, released in 1985, finds Albin inheriting a fortune from a dead aunt. The catch: he must marry a woman and father a child to cash in the inheritance. With their nightclub in danger of bankruptcy, Renato & Albin conspire to find a leading lady, and cross paths with a chronically depressed woman, Cindy, who may just be the answer to their conundrum.
Ok, so we admit: the premise runs a bit thin in the sequels, and the jokes about Albin and Renato’s effeminacy get a bit tired. That said, the La Cage aux Folles trilogy represents a groundbreaking success for queer-themed films–one which remains unmatched to this day. Tognazzi and Serrault embody their characters without inhibition, and seeing a gay couple–however bitchy–on a set of globe-trotting adventures does our heart good. This weekend, spend some time with this wacky pair and revel in their antics…and affections. Love rarely has so many feathers, or so many laughs.
All three films stream on Amazon & YouTube.