Monday, August 20, 2007

prize eejit

almost the entire scene i described yesterday can be seen on youtube

sorry for wasting your time ... and mine !

however, you may notice that the ?americanised? subtitles have lost much in translation

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Michel Serrault in La Cage Aux Folles,,2140865,00.html

I was watching yet another comedy last night; it was La Cage Aux Folles yet again, when I belatedly learned of the recent death of the actor Michel Serrault. The film must have been made nearly 30 years ago.

Renato, the butch Italian manager of La Cage Aux Folles, a gay cabaret in St. Tropez, and his French partner of twenty years, Albin who is the club’s starring drag/drama queen, endeavour to pass themselves off for one evening as an Italian cultural attaché and his wife. This is because Renato has a son who wants to marry the daughter of a well-known right wing politician, a Deputy.

As in many partnerships, when there is a disagreement, there follows a competition to be "right". Renato, it seems, likes to give good advice, but doesn't know when to stop. In this scene, they go into a working-class bar along the street to compose themselves after a tiff. They pass straight through the bar to sit alone in an empty back room and I have always loved the ensuing low-budget scene in which the butch Renato tells the effeminate Albin how to butter his toast like a real man. This quickly becomes a duet of stereotypical camp gestures and posturing.

part two ... renato tries to take care of albin

Bartender enters: Bonjour, Monsieur Renato ! Bonjour Albin !

Renato: Bonjour Marcel ! Two teas with milk, and some biscottes ?

Bartender, staring at Albin: What’s wrong with him ?

Renato: Oh nothing. He’s just overtired.

Bartender: Don’t you want to lie down ?

Renato: No, he’ll be fine after a cup of tea.

Albin: ( just as the bar tender is going out of the door ) … Salt-free biscottes ! ... Well, what are we going to do about tonight?

Renato: Quite a problem. Two men like us ... what can we tell them?

Renato soaks a table napkin in the drinking water and uses it with great tenderness to cool Albin’s throat, and then his forehead.

Albin: Thank you, Darling. That feels good on my throat. Well, what could we tell them ? Maybe I could be ... I don't know ... a relative. His uncle, perhaps? Couldn’t you say I'm his uncle ? …

Renato: No !

Albin: All right, I know I don’t look like an uncle. But you’re not home and dry, either. In any case, you don't resemble your character either. Didn't Laurent say you were a cultural attaché?

Renato: Yes ! So ?

Albin: Cultural attaché ! Hah ! You don't know what culture is! Oh, la la ! We’re not out of the woods yet ! Hah !

part three ... the partners have very different table manners

Bartender, re-entering with a tray: Here it is, tea and toast. Feeling better?

There is a silence whilst Albin pours their tea in a lady like way; a silence broken when Renato noisily stuffs a whole biscotte into his mouth, using his fingers to jab home the last third.

Albin: Yes ! Oh, la la ! Cultural attaché ? Hah ! You have a unique way of eating, rather like a mechanical digger.

Albin stirs his tea.

Renato: Your little finger. What's it doing up in the air? Just look at it.

Albin: So ? Its got a mind of it’s own.

Renato: You'll say that to the Deputy tonight, huh? Well, let's try to make a man out of this “uncle”. You have to learn how to hold things. Watch ! Hold the toast in a manly way, like this. Spread the butter with a little virility … and watch your little finger when you drink your tea. Go on ! ( Smacking his bottom ) But first, sit up like a man !

Albin: (whimpering ) What have I done now ?

Renato: ( almost aggressively ) Please, don't whine every time I correct you. It’s for your own good ! Listen ! I want you to be presentable tonight.

Albin: ( submissively ) Yes, of course, thankyou !

part four ... a serious discussion of gender etiquette

Renato: Good, now butter your toast. Butter it like a man. Don't be afraid. That's the way! This is the Biscotte of a Man.

( The biscotte breaks and flies across the table )

Renato: You're doing it on purpose! You’ve got it in for me ! Now take another one and try again.

Albin: ( Whimpering continuously ) I'll never get it. Never.

Renato: Don't whine, please, don't whine! Now hold this piece firmly in your hand, steadily and confidently ... an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like a man. With a strong hand, understand? Like a real man! That’s right ! Now for something more difficult. A little jam ? Yes, take the spoon.

Albin: The teaspoon?

Renato: No, not like that! What are you doing ? It looks like you’re ringing a little bell ! It’s just a spoon ! It's only a spoon. Hold it without quivering, firmly ! Understand?

Albin: You have something against me.

The toast breaks and goes flying again,

Renato: You’re doing it again ! If you want to kill me, aim between the eyes !

Albin: I'll never get it. I've broken the toast again.

Renato: Yes, It's broken. It’s a disaster. The important thing is to know how to respond as a MAN ! Do you understand?

Albin: I understand. You're right.

Renato: You have to say to yourself, calmly... "Albin, so you made a mistake. It isn’t the end of the World. There’s no harm done. You can try again." Force yourself. Take another biscotte. Here ...

Renato lifts his own teacup, and his own little finger waggles exactly as did Albin’s.

Albin: You're right. In the end, it's not serious. After all, I still have more biscottes. And then …. Oh ! Be careful with your little finger !

part five ... renato shows albin how to walk the john wayne walk

Renato: ( using his right hand to press down his errant little finger ) It does it by itself. Enough ! Blow your nose. We’re going home.

Albin: Wait ! Wait ! I need to freshen up.

Albin hesitantly walks, minces, flutters towards the door of the bar in search of the toilets.

Renato: No ! No ! No !

Albin returns to Renato’s side.

Albin: What have I done now?

Renato: What kind of walk is that?

Albin: What's the matter with it?

Renato: Mince like that tonight and we're ruined.

Albin: What am I going to do ?

Renato: Come here.

Albin: What do you want?

Renato: Try to walk like John Wayne.

Albin: The cowboy?

Renato: Yes, John Wayne. Gets off your horse, walk towards the saloon, and send the doors flying ! Try it.

Albin: I have to be John Wayne? Here I go.

Minces again.

Renato: ( As Albin flings open the bar doors ) That's Miss John Wayne !

There is a most exquisite irony here because the score for this film is by Ennio Morricone, who also did the music for the Sergio Leone “spaghetti westerns”. Just a few wisps of that wild west saloon sound & a couple of piano chords in the same style set the mood for a confrontation …

Voice from the bar; ( mimicking an effeminate lisp in a not unfriendly way, but difficult to translate )

Alors pédé ! ( which maybe translates as … Hey, fag ! )

Albin: ( returning to their table ) Someone just called me a fag.

Renato, throws down his napkin, rolls up his sleeves & parodies the John Wayne swagger in an even more exaggerated way as he approaches the smallest man at the bar …

Albin: And now he shows me …

part six ... hubris a la john wayne ... and redemption

Renato: Did you call my friend a fag?

The smallest man confidently shakes his head in denial,

and then jerks his thumb, indicating the huge man standing right behind him …

... and we avert our gaze from the ensuing violence