Posted by: nastypen | November 9, 2006

Sheer Genius

Normally I do not get unfazed watching a movie. My usual reactions to films would range from a slew of praises (ex. The Departed) and telling my friends to watch it to the dissmissive “eh what a waste of money, they could have used the money that made this film to find the cure for cancer” (example: Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions). But Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan made me stutter after watching it at Los Angeles.
HIGH FIVE!!!!I think Borat is a fine example of one of the most scathing satires and commentaries of contemporary times. This is a product of the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for Da Ali G Show. He has three character sketches for that show: Ali G, the hip hop poseur, Bruno, the catty Austrian fashionista and Borat, a television journalist from Kazakhstan.

The joke is that these three personas would take to the streets and interview unsuspecting people and even sometimes people of distinction and watch the unravelling of such people on air.

I found it amazing that Borat made millions in its opening weekend when the basic premise of that film is poking fun at Americans. I watched it with Raphael at one of those multiplexes in Los Angeles. We caught the matinee because it’s cheaper. We planned to sneak in to another movie after.

Yet, after watching Borat, I was stunned and told Raphael that I don’t want to ruin that movie experience by watching another film.

Here’s a picture of Borat with his sister. she holds a trophy and he proudly announces that his sister is….

oh lordy.....

….the fourth top prostitute in Kazakhstan.

Whoa. This is just the first few minutes of the film, too. It is when Borat is sent by the Kazakh government to America to be able to learn things from the land of plenty that will be beneficial for Kazakhstan that is the very genius of the film.

We see Borat as the typical country bumpkin with old suitcases and all inside the New York subway. He tries to greet people there in the “Kazakh traditional” way by clasping the hand and giving a buss/kiss on the cheeks of the other men. Watch how Americans react to his antics and that is the very punchline of the film.

Whereas Jackass 2 allows you to witness the new lows a group of American young men can do to themselves, Borat effectively shoves Americans into situtations that their reactions can range from the farcical (Borat discusses with American feminists about Pamela Anderson) to the very disturbing (One rancher calls for the hanging of homosexuals).

It is mayhem!

I won’t ruin it for you. I’ll just tell you how Borat marketed his films. During the Toronto Film festival, a film fest where Oscar buzz starts, his film was the most popular. He entered the screening on a cart being dragged around by actresses dressed as fat, poor and downtrodden Kazakh women. When the actual Kazakh president visited the White House, Borat caused a security skirmish when he went there to invite “America’s top warlord premiere Bush” to a screening of the film. At the prestigious Cannes film festival in France, Borat posed in this hormone-uplifiting outfit:

yummy, baby, yummy!

Pretty tongue in cheek for a very staid and glamorous event like the Cannes huh? He even wore this outfit in Amsterdam, where prostitution and marijuana are legal (I want to migrate there). He posed with the sex workers in the red light district.

This is what Borat is to the contemporary (mostly Western) societies, the wart you cannot hide. He may be sexist, homophobic, anti-semetic (Cohen is Jewish but a massive cache of Borat has anti-Jewish jokes), crude, but these are mere devices on the unsuspecting pavlov mice which are the Americans in the film as to how they will react to such a character and a situtation brought about this character.

I don’t know if this will be shown in the Philippines without cuts. The movie has frontal nudity and that is the least offensive thing there I can think of.  I think this is one of the truly funniest films I have seen.  I commend it for the bravery of telling it how it is that America is not really a rosy picture of land of plenty but also a simmering portrait on several classes and races of people with discrimintations as subtle as a blunt instrument used to whack people off unconscious.

I envy Cohen for being so adamant as to create this character.  For a lot of people, comedy is all about slapstick (ex. The Three Stooges), or could be the rantings (not necessarily witty rantings) of cute comedians like Dane Cook, or could be the wild facial  and physical abuse and contortionisms like the Jackass boys, or whines of American stand up comedians like Jerry Seinfeld to the angry sassy diva humor of Wanda Sykes to the dry wit and quick repratee from the Brits (God, I love Britisih comedy which a lot of people consider the brand “British comedy” as oxymoronic)….and then there are the brilliant satirists like Cohen.

The punchlines are not from the comedian himself which I think is sheer genius.  I learned at such a young age that nothing is funnier and more hurtful than the truth.  Borat affirms that.

He needs no laughtrack.



  1. I better not miss this movie when it’s shown here Ü

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