The Criterion Collection presents Edouard Molinaroís La Cage aux Folles on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.
Though generally pleasing the film looks like itís a product of the 70s, specifically in the night club sequences. These sequences are foggy and dimly lit, obscuring details and creating a largely hazy image in turn. This is ultimately an issue with the source materials and shooting conditions, not an issue with the transfer.
The high-definition digital transfer itself is extremely strong: itís stable, cleanly renders film grain, lacks any noticeable artifacts, and appears to produce colours and black levels accurately. Also, during better looking moments, where it doesnít appear a soft focus is being used, fine details show through distinctly.
I donít recall a single blemish worth mentioning, and in general the restoration work has been very thorough. Short of some stylistic choices and being a product of its time, Criterionís presentation is still very impressive. 8/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
The supplements are fairly light, which is a disappointment, but thereís still some great, insightful material to be found here.
Director Edouard Molinaro delivers a very frank and honest interview, talking about his early career, where he was ďpigeonholedĒ into doing detective films, and his reasons for doing La Cage aux Folles. Interestingly, while he was involved in the project in one way or another early on, he had no intention to direct it and really didnít want to. Eventually he became the director but admits he only did it because he felt the film would be a hit and he needed one after a string of failures or he may have never worked again. Whatís most interesting about this interview is the fact it appears no one involved was truly excited about it and were all sure the film would be a disaster. I find this surprising as, despite what oneís thoughts on the film may be, the film has a certain energy that suggests all those involved were thrilled with the project and excited to do it. Yet this was not the case. Not only was the director begrudgingly doing the film but both of the filmís stars were hesitant: Ugo Tognazzi , only brought on to help with international box office, hated the script and only did what he was told when it was threatened his pay would be held back, while Michel Serrault, a devout Christian (who also played the role of Albin on stage,) had issues with Molinaroís desire to make the character more human and relatable (he seemed to only think the character was worth playing as a stereotypical ďqueenĒ and didnít like to think of Albin as an actual person.) Because of this and the farcical nature of the film, Molinaro thought he had a disaster on his hands (and French critics were apparently unfriendly) but he was shocked how well it ultimately did, especially in America where he feels audiences and critics actually understood the social aspects and what he was trying to do a bit better. On top of all of this he also covers the translation to screen, the lighting, Morriconeís score, and more. Itís only shy of 19-minutes but Molinaro packs in a lot and keeps it interesting. Itís a rather fascinating interview.
Criterion then digs up some archival material related to Michel Surrault and Jean Poiret. Poiret was the writer of the play La Cage aux Folles and also played Renato on stage (he was replaced by Tognazzi in the film version.) Here Criterion presents two skits performed by the two on television in 1959: Les antiquaries has the two playing rather colourful antique dealers trying to assist a customer, while Le monsieur qui veut vendre sa voiture is, as the title suggests, about a man trying to sell his car back to the original dealer, more or less. The skits run 11-minutes and 6-minutes respectively. Criterion also includes a 10-minute excerpt from a recording of a 1973 performance of the stage version of La Cage aux Folles, which is the scene where Albin suspects Renato is trying to get rid of him for unsavory reasons.
Thereís surprisingly very little about the play and Poiret on this edition, so it was nice to get some material featuring him while also showing the chemistry he and Serrault had, which Iím sure helped lead to the stage playís success. Though the first skit did little for me the other two pieces are fairly amusing.
Laurence Senelick, author of The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre, then spends about 23-minutes talking about how drag has played a role throughout the history of theatre, from men playing women in plays for centuries to rock stars in the 70s to, of course, La Cage aux Folles. Itís surprisingly not that insightful a feature and Iím somewhat at a loss as to why it was included. Itís the one feature on here I could give or take.
The disc then closes with two theatrical trailers: the French trailer and then the American one.
Disappointingly there is a real lack of analytical features, with only David Ehrensteinís essay (found in the included booklet) addressing the importance of the film, primarily in the fact itís an early film that didnít judge its homosexual characters and presented them as a family. It also may have been interesting to hear more dissenting opinions, apart from the filmís director who gives the impression heís still not completely sold on the film.
Unfortunately itís slim but the directorís comments and the archival footage are strong additions. 6/10