BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
Kazakhstan's lanky TV journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) is sent with producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) and a doco crew to the US by the Ministry of Information to report back on the world's greatest country. His imperfect English and the tasteless culture he espouses as natural in his country make him an oddity at large. And when he discovers Pamela Anderson on TV, he sets off from New York to California to make her his wife. On the way, he drops in on evangelists, rodeos, prostitutes and etiquette teachers, as well as meeting up with an assortment of Americans who either take fright or give in to his faux-naïve offensiveness. But when Azamat sullies the image of Pamela, the two men break up their friendship in a naked, no holds barred hotel room brawl, leaving Borat to find Pamela on his own.
Review by Louise Keller:
If the squeals of laughter at the Australian Premiere are any guide, Borat will be as big a hit here as it has been in America. Politically, socially, religiously and sexually incorrect, Borat is a mockumentary that sets out to offend. It's bawdy, brash and crude and most of the time, the laughs come at someone else's expense. Sacha Baron Cohen's portrayal of the outrageous simpleton reporter from the third world country of Kazakhstan is a satire that's in your face. But is it funny? Yes and no. Depending on your point of view. While I found some of the concepts clever and amusing, the heavy handedness of the humour is rather tiresome and repetitive. It is one thing to make amusing faux pas about language and social etiquette, but quite another to harp on sexist and toilet jokes.
We first meet Borat in his hometown, where he shows a discerning disregard and disrespect for everyone and everything. His mission? To travel to America, to make a documentary about his experiences of its culture. There he interviews the unsuspecting in different situations: a bit like our own Norman Gunston. Borat's views are strictly anti-sematic and he has a blatant disrespect for women, believing that all women are prostitutes. His cross country trek to find the shapely Pamela Anderson (after he falls in lust with her watching an episode of Baywatch), ends in a gutsy appearance of the lady herself, in a scene that is pure slapstick.
The fish-out-of-water premise includes Borat's producer Azamat Bagatov (fearlessly portrayed by Ken Davitian), and together they make havoc wherever they go. There's an overlong nude romp between the two men in the hotel room, which you could say is in-your-face from every aspect. Ideas like the grizzly bear, the chicken in a bag and the icecream truck are incongruous elements that work well in their lunacy. The younger demographic will be drawn to this tall, lanky, outspoken caricature in the pale grey suit, and while Borat is not my bag, I was interested to see what the fuss is all about.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The history of comedians acquiring fictional characters as their working persona is laced with satirical blood, from Dame Edna to Norman Gunston; Borat joins these (and others) with a newfound zeal. He takes bad taste excess to excess, as it were, because he has nowhere else to go and nothing to lose - Borat, after all, doesn't exist. Well, that's unkind; beneath the smelly poop and crass sex jokes, there are glimpses of ascerbic satire, but they remain just glimpses. This is a film that ignites the baser passions, satisfies the lowest common denominator and makes sure that it offends equally. That is the film's weakness and why it is a quick hit with no lasting value; for example, in bating Jews and Christian evangelists alike, the satire is spread like rank butter across the toast of US society. Borat's creator takes refuge in being offensive all round. He is politically correct, after all.
But I don't find much of Borat's humour funny; he is provocative, yes, in an undergraduate sort of way, which is like farting at a polite dinner table. He shoots with cheap ammunition - and uses an automatic that repeats rather too often. But as the film's immediate popularity in the US proves, to Fox's surprise, you can never underestimate the bad taste of the masses.
Borat is more or less a one joke movie, the joke being Borat the brat. He has cleverly parlayed this character into off screen performances, and his appearances on TV talk shows and live promo spots regurgitate the squalid lines from the screenplay. This suggests that his fans connect with his genial disrespect filtered through a feigned ignorance - because he is actually not as dumb as he makes out. We are all in on the joke - if I can call it a joke - and that is why so many in the preview audience laughed so often. His admirers recognise their baser selves in Borat. Good for them. Let it all hang out. Shock is therapy. But count me out.
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BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN (MA)
CAST: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Pamela Anderson
PRODUCER: Sacha Baron Cohen, Jay Roach
DIRECTOR: Larry Charles
SCRIPT: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luke Geissbuhler, Anthony Hardwick
EDITOR: Craig Alpert, Peter Teschner, James Thomas
MUSIC: Erran Baron Cohen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Maturana
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 23, 2006