Borat Sagdiyev: Sacha Baron Cohen
Azamat: Ken Vavitian
Pamela Anderson: Herself
Directed By: Larry Charles.
Written By: Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Maynham,
and Dan Mazer.
Based on a character created by Cohen sometimes featured on the Da Ali G Show.
Running time: 82 min. Rated R (for strong crude and sexual content including graphic nudity and language).
“I support your war of terror…”
-Borat (As rodeo host to a group of cowboy-hat wearing patriots who cheer him loudly before booing him.)
“In my country my sister is 4th best prostitute and has trophy to prove it.”
CoverUps.com Rating: 2½ UFOs
CoverUps.com Staff Writer
(March 28, 2007) - The cover-up in the comedic mockumentary Borat has more to do with an implied cultural perspective rather than any sinister political agenda. In Borat:Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen, plays a non-malicious naïve photojournalist from Kazakhstan who has a culturally learned fear of Jews as well as a propensity for saying innocent and stupid things.
Jews in particular he thinks are evil and demonic and capable of all sorts of moronic things like shape shifting into cockroaches for one. The joke is that Borat is a harmless man, who seemingly has no real world experience with Jews. Alas, he also thinks blacks are cool and hip, which is in itself a racial stereotyping of a different nature.
Borat is a racially conditioned stereotype and his anti-Semitism is satirical in the knowledge that actor Sacha Baron Cohen is Jewish. So, it is clear he is making a point.
There are also real encounters with real stereotypes, like strangely odd aging rednecks and tea sipping socialites, gun salesmen who matter-of-factly tell you exactly what you should know if one asks “what is the best gun for shooting a Jew?”
We must ask – is this film of racial propaganda masquerading as satire or is it holding up a mirror to a world that altogether sees things through the prism of cultural conditioning and stereotyping? Is Borat showing us ourselves?
Borat, which was critically acclaimed and took most top comedic honors in 2006, is essentially a documentary filmed by a crew posing as out-of-the-water foreigners in America. The character Borat travels initially from his home country of Kazakhstan all the way to the “US and A – Greatest country in world.” He takes along a trusted friend, a fat guy named Azamat, who presumably films his everyday experiences in America. However, most of the film is unrehearsed and real footage of encounters with real people – the documentary part. This is what makes the film powerful. Borat is a walking and talking comedic idiot from a remote part of the globe to most Americans, yet he is highly believable and real people share their oftentimes limited views gladly with him. Why? Because we Americans think this is really what people are like from other parts of the world? Or, is it just that the world is filled with idiots, America being no exception, and eventually a broken clock is right twice a day and it was simply inevitable that Borat would snag enough moronic flies to make a comedic documentary if not an out right freak show? But, the movie is funny. Still, is that enough?
The initial encounters in the Subways of New York, I found hilarious. Most New Yorkers on the subway were nice enough until Borat violated their space and Big Apple defense mechanisms kicked in. In not so many words, once businessman said he was going to punch Borat in the balls if he didn’t back away. Losing his chicken on the subway and taking a dump in Central Park were both off the hook. However, as he wonders across America’s Deep South, the film does take on some routine and I found the scripted stuff, flat out lacking a payoff, since what is interesting are the real people.
The rodeo scene in Texas paints the crowd in very unflattering redneck like footage, but I found them to be surprisingly reserved as he gradually went on to butcher the Star Spangled Banner thereby deliberately insulting his audience. I was also rather surprised he escaped alive too.
There are many other slap stick encounters in Borat, perhaps culminating in the naked scenes where Borat is chased by his fat friend Azamat, whom he catches jerking off to his beloved photos of Pamela Anderson. They run right through a hotel lobby naked and into some kind of boring hotel ballroom seminar on real estate or something.
Some scenes were not so much funny as ballsy and manipulative. For instance, there are parts of the film where Borat infiltrates a Pentecostal Church and acts like he needs saved by Jesus. Okay, I could never dance in one of these places and do all that stuff – but it really seemed exploitive of their goodwill and highly patronizing. The same could be said of the elderly Jewish couple who served them sandwiches, which Borat, looking to the camera and espousing his suspiciousness about the Jewish B&B owners trying to poison them. He then spit the sandwich into his napkin acting like he was being poisoned by the Russians.
Yes, it is worth watching, but I am hesitant to say this is a great film be it comedy, documentary or otherwise. It makes fun of stereotypes by wallowing in them, both real and scripted. Its true entertainment value lies in that some guy was actually willing to do this stuff for real and so you kinda have to watch it. In some sense Borat is rather like a sophisticated version of the Jackass movies.
Those who would imbue this film with highly intellectual and satirical capital are those that might just as well find it in a Stooge film I suppose. To me at least, the intelligentsia get caught up in Borat and I am not sure why. Maybe it’s just me, but when some guy’s bag and big naked butt is bouncing off his friend’s face as they wrestle over a magazine of Pamela Anderson, I simply can’t find the intellectual subtlety and commentary on life in America or anywhere else for that matter.
Borat is funny, yes, but a great film, hardly. I would counter anyone that feels otherwise that to call Borat an intelligent film speaks volumes to the dearth of though provoking films being made today – though I would not shave my pubis on it.