Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Birdcage

Armand: Pull yourself together!
Agador: Why?
Armand: Because you have to start cooking dinner, OK?…. [Exits]

Val: Can you ... you can cook, right?
Agador: Your father seems to think so.

The Birdcage doesn’t feature much in the way of food—some toast and butter, a cup of coffee, a catch-all stew—but it does have that infamous dinner scene with naked Greek boys playing in the soup bowls! To be clear: when Armand (Williams), Albert (Lane), and Val (Futterman) sit down to dinner with their future in-laws the Keeleys (Hackman, Wiest, and Flockhart), the table is set with what is probably very expensive china, of a “pattern” portraying nude young men at play, in scenes reminiscent of the decorations on ancient Greek pottery. Neither the viewer nor the guests ever really get to see the young Greeks—by the time the Keeleys find their reading glasses, Armand has filled the bowls with Agador’s (Azaria) Guatemalan peasant soup (though without the shrimps). Both the spiciness of the soup and the hosts’ desire to disguise their identity as a gay couple drive the diners from the table before they can even empty their bowls—or glimpse the gaiety of their Greek table companions.

Louise Keeley: What interesting china! Why, it looks like young men playing leapfrog. Is it Greek?
Albert: (squeals) I … I … I have no idea. I’ve never seen these bowls before….
Senator Keeley: It is Greek. Greek boys, actually. Uh, naked Greek boys.
Albert: And girls. Don’t you have any girls on your bowl
Val: I have one.
Albert: So do I! Oh, look! Senator Keeley, there. I think that’s a girl.
Senator Keeley: Then it’s been a long time since you’ve seen one. That’s a boy. I may need glasses, but I can see that.

Fun Facts:
When Armand (Williams) is trying to teach Albert (Lane) how to comport himself in a more masculine manor, they practice buttering a piece of toast—and Albert shrieks when he presses too hard and breaks the toast in pieces. The hilarious scene caused director Mike Nichols to laugh so loudly that he had to be covered with a sound blanket in order for filming to continue.

Armand: What the hell is this?
Agador: Sweet-and-sour peasant soup. Why’d you say it was seafood chowder?
Armand: What the hell is that?
Agador: I don't know, I made it up! I made it up!

Released March 8, 1966
Directed by Mike Nichols
Play La Cage Aux Folles by Jean Poiret; earlier screenplay by Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon, and Jean Poiret; screenplay by Elaine May
Starring Robin Williams as Armand Goldman, Nathan Lane as Albert Goldman, Hank Azaria as Agador, Gene Hackman as Senator Kevin Keeley, Dianne Wiest as Louise Keeley, Dan Futterman as Val Goldman, Calista Flockhart as Barbara Keeley, Christine Baranski as Katherine Archer, and Tom McGowan as Harry Radman
Awards: 1997 American Comedy Awards for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) for Nathan Lane and Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for Dianne Wiest; 1997 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for Favorite Supporting Actor-Comedy for Gene Hackman and Favorite Supporting Actress-Comedy for Dianne Wiest; 1997 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast (Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, Dan Futterman)

If you look closely during the dinner scene, you can catch a really quick glimpse of the Greek boys before Armand covers the illustration with the soup. The scene portrayed on the bowls is quite explicit, in a homoerotic way. But finding a photo of the bowls has proven impossible. To get an idea of the type of scene covered over, take a look at these reproductions of ancient Greek pottery:


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Mallory said...

Not sure how long it will stay up (possibly coprighted?) but took a screen grab of the bowls from The Birdcage. I keep hoping someone will make them, I would win best friend ever if I were able to get a set for my friend.

Unknown said...

@Mallory if you ever found those bowls... please let us know!

Unknown said...

Seriously same i want to have them reproduced as a wedding present for my best friend

msunshine11 said...

if anyone knows where to get them, a good friend is getting married and I would be SO HAPPY to find these for him!!!