Thursday, November 02, 2006


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

The improvisatory performances of Sacha Baron Cohen may have finally earned a spot in intellectual discourse, but appreciation for his original comic routine is way overdue. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan arrives as the culmination of many years the actor spent duping people around the world under three wildly exaggerated guises on Da Ali G Show. The basic premise found him embodying characters culled from the crudest stereotypes out there: the title thuggish hip-hop impresario; a German punk fetishist named Bruno (the star of Baron Cohen's next movie, according to the trades), and Borat Sagdiyev, a messy conflation of false conceptions surrounding third-world savagery hailing from a brutally fictionalized Kazakhstan. All three creations purport to be journalists, interviewing unsuspecting real-life subjects who often become outraged; almost as frequently, they readily accept the actor's performances as authentic personalities, revealing their own racist tendencies in their lack of surprise and disbelief. Viewed in light of these results, it seems natural that the actor wrote a college thesis on the Civil Rights movement.

The second feature-length treatment of a Baron Cohen creation (the first being the uninspired, fully-scripted Ali G Indahouse) maintains a fascinating anthropological perspective. Still, those unfamiliar with the character's history on television are unlikely to comprehend the range of his comic potential. The movie is undoubtedly an experience worth having; it's infuriating and bold, immersive and disorienting, surreal and yet uncomfortably familiar. That shouldn't detract from the merits of noteworthy Borat skits from the show, where the laughs have been much larger, and the "wow" moments -- when seemingly regular folks reveal their inner biases -- much more frequent.

Read the rest of the review at The Reeler...


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