Film Reviews

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN

By • Nov 3rd, 2006 •

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20th Century Fox / One America / Everyman Pictures
R-Rated / 84 minutes

Evil comedy, a new genre, has arrived. The bar has been raised and is flying over everyone’s head.

It’s absurdly vulgar, so be warned. But if you want to laugh – in shock – from start to finish, this is the movie that will challenge future comedies as The New Template. See the flaccid SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS, then see Sacha Baron Cohen’s pure portrayal of Kazakhstan’s TV host Borat Sagdiyev.

I do not know how Jews are going to feel about BORAT, but the Kazakhstan government is fighting back.

Before Borat travels to the U.S., he takes us on a tour of his village, proudly showing off his upscale Kazakhstan shack lifestyle…

…which has infuriated Kazakhstan and its president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Cohen’s film has been denounced by the Kazakh Embassy in Washington and led to the reports that Mr. Nazarbayev intended to complain about the film to President Bush on an official state visit. Kazakhstan has begun a TV (the ads are running on CNN) and newspaper campaign to show the country in a better light.

Kazakhstan will need Tom Cruise’s PR firm to offset BORAT’s “Running of the Jews,” the country’s national drink of horse urine, cheese made from Borat’s wife’s breast, state-ranked prostitutes, and the ultra-anti-Jewish sentiment of the country. And, Borat is fiercely homophobic, even though he cannot keep his hands, genitals, and mouth off other men.

Borat leaves his soon-to-be-deceased wife and the village rapist to travel to New York City with his producer, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian in the star-making buddy role of 2006). Everyone Borat meets in New York City is horrified by him.

But it is the wrestling in the nude with Bagatov that you will never forget. Sure, Robert De Niro “inhabited” his “Raging Bull” character and so did Charlize Theron in MONSTER, but no one has committed himself so completely to a character like Cohen.

Why ruin it for you? Go see for yourself.

Borat sees a “Baywatch” rerun on TV and decides he will marry Pamela Anderson and take her forcibly back to Kazakhstan in a sack. This means he must go to Malibu. After talking Bagatov into his plan to interview real Americans, he buys an ice cream truck and they travel across America. You can see that not much of the road trip was staged.

BORAT has been cleverly written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Don Mazer. We wait in anticipation: What will happen if Borat sees Pamela’s infamous sex tape?

The Americans Borat meets are real people. Cohen appears to have been roughed up several times by security men and probably had a lot of explaining to do afterwards. Especially when he attacks Anderson at a book signing.

It just goes to show how everyone wants to be in a movie – even when Borat goes to a gun store to buy a gun to protect himself “against Jews.”

How does Cohen get his footage? My husband got a call from a “British TV production team affiliated with the BBC” last year. (Their google credits were vague.) He wisely declined to be interviewed about séances but another friend, a parapsychologist, agreed. The production team did not want me at the filming after I went to the pre-interview meeting. I later suggested that my friend have them sign a letter confirming it was not Ali G who was coming over. The day of the filming, my friend faxed them a letter agreement. He should have waited since we are both Sacha Baron Cohen fans. They never turned up.

The outrageous behavior of Borat never lets up. He knows no boundaries. His honesty makes him likeable, as long as he doesn’t come to your house and want to use the toilet.

The character of Borat is so shocking (and Cohen never abandons the character) that you are not laughing at him or at what he says, you are just laughing at his profound ignorance. It is also evident that we are now so conditioned to politeness that it is the fearlessness of Cohen and his director, Larry Charles, which is so liberating. In its crude way, BORAT is providing a service, showing how idiotic cultural stereotyping can be.


Credits:
Director: Larry Charles
Screenwriters: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Don Mazer
Producers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Jay Roach
Executive producers: Dan Mazer, Monica Levinson
Director of photography: Anthony Hardwick, Luke Geissbuhler
Production designer: David Maturana
Costumes: Jason Alper
Music: Erran Baron Cohen
Editors: Peter Teschner, James Thomas

Cast:
Borat Sagdiyev: Sacha Baron Cohen
Herself: Pamela Anderson
Azamat Bagatov: Ken Davitian

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