Friday, August 25, 2006

Exclusive Review Of The Borat Movie

Here's a damn fine review of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I was supposed to see the film last night, but I couldn't. Nonetheless, Rich Johnston did go on our pass, and he has now, very kindly, written a rather interesting review of the film. More than ever, I wish I could have been there. Guess I'll have to wait almost three months like the rest of us.

Oh - and as you read on through Rich's review, bear in mind that I have copy edited it myself and may have screwed it up. This man gets paid to copywrite, I don't get paid to edit, so for any errors you spot, I'll take the blame.

Here goes.

No one swings from high to low than Sacha Baron Cohen. Who else could take the perfect character and setup of Ali G and create Ali G: Da Movie? Are you shuddering? I'm shuddering.

Borat, successful on UK network television, US cable networks and coming soon to a YouTube sub-site, has been given a movie. Wisely - oh so wisely - Cohen chose to basically extend the prank filming idea of the original shorts into a movie rather than make up some half-arsed comedy film plot again.

But in making this movie, has he destroyed an essential satirical aspect of the original?

Borat is a fictional TV reporter from Kazakhstan working as an ambassadorial documentary maker in the West, with his very basic English and Western knowledge creating all manner of embarrassing situations for people who mistake him for the real deal. Not only does he expose bigoted opinions by letting people agree with the character's extreme anti-semitic, homophobic, sexist and racist views, but he also exposes a very ignorant tolerance. He shines a spotlight on those who will put up with the character's ludicrous antics and statements, simply because they believe that people from Eastern Europe could actually be this primitive or stupid. It's a wonderfully double edged sword.

And this is the only point where the film falters: for the first time, Borat shows us his home, his neighbours, his country. We are encouraged to believe that the ludicrous reality Borat painted in his TV shorts is indeed real - that his sister is the fourth best prostitute in the whole of Kazakhstan; that his wizened mother is 43; that the cars in Kazakhstan are pulled along by horses; that there is a village rapist - "naughty naughty – only animals!"; that there is a Running Of The Jew parade, where a Mrs Jew lays a massive egg, to be trampled on by children.

Now, this is all totally ludicrous and very funny, but by showing us this, and creating an actual reality for Borat to operate in, it blunts one edge of the blade. There is less of a wink to camera. And we are left laughing at these fictionalised stupid Eastern Europeans.

Of course we can also laugh at the very real stupid Americans too. Both at the bigoted opinions – especially when a rodeo organiser agrees with Borat's view that homosexuals should be hanged - and the extreme tolerance - when one politician has to explain to Borat that the man who stuck a rubber fist up his anus might be a member of "the gay community".

The plot, such as it is – a documentary to enlighten the population of Kazakhstan turns into a road movie with a mission to take Pamela Anderson's virginity – never gets in the way of some seriously funny jokes, juxtapositions, stunts and scenes of bears attacking young children. There are even moments of genuine pathos scattered around the film, and the timing of the what's-in-the-fridge reveal is a real highlight. And, yes, the now-infamous naked wrestling which explodes through an official conference is pure unfettered joy.

America is used to being mocked and has of late found the ability to self-mock in a way it never could before. It's a self confident move, and this movie could well succeed on the back of it. But what is going to be a real problem for some is the scene in the evangelical church where - and let's be frank about this - the Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who is playing Borat, allows himself to be saved, with all the laying on of hands, speaking in tongues and prayer that this involves, from real church members unaware that this is a set up. I found that particularly disturbing and, in a way out, of keeping with the rest of the movie. That act alone could well see people leaving the cinemas. I can see the Fox Report right now.

So go. See this movie, Americans. Before it gets pulled and the cinemas burnt to the ground.

For the record, Rich, I'm not nearly as hard on Da Ali G Movie as you are. Thanks for enjoying Borat for me, you fiend.


M Ali said...

Kazakhastan's in Central Asia not Eastern Europe.

Anonymous said...

Sure, okay, he got that wrong... but he also said that jews lay eggs. Jews don't lay eggs!

Anonymous said...

And it was filmed in Romania!