Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat The Movie

What can you say about this film? In it's opening week in the USA, it grossed over $26 million. Who says the Americans have no sense of humour?

Borat, for the uninitiated, is a character played by Sacha Baren Cohen, a Cambridge graduate whose previous crimes include the Ali G persona.

Borat purports to be a reporter from Kazikstan and the basic premise of the movie involves him being sent to the USA to do a documentary for the 'glorious nation of Kazikstan.'
The film opens with Borat giving us a tour of his home town, or to be more precise, his home street (actually filmed in Romania). He introduces the town rapist, the town mechanic, who is also the abortionist, his abusive wife and his mother (the oldest woman at 43). We are then treated to a local festival; 'the running of the Jew.'

If by this stage you have taken offence, it would be wise to head for the exit, as in terms of taste, it's all downhill from here on in.
Leaving his street in a battered car steered by a teenage boy and pulled along by a horse, Borat and his portly manager take a plane to America, where Borat proceeds to insult just about everyone, without meaning to of course.

His attempts at friendliness on the New York subway are both hilarious and shocking. The abuse he meets from fellow passengers simply by trying to shake hands says a lot for big city dwellers, and the 'accidental' release of a chicken from Borat's suitcase; 'careful he bite' is merely one of dozens of belly laughs throughout the movie.

Checking into a classy hotel, Borat begins to unpack in the lift, remarking what a lovely room he has been allocated. Upon reaching the actual room, he proceeds to wash his face in the toilet.
Yes it's that sort of film -- there's a lot of toilet humour.

He proceeds to outrage a group of feminists by asserting that 'it is proved women have brain the size of squirrel's' and shocks a driving instructor by attempting to drink a bottle of whisky whilst on the road.

Having discovered 'Baywatch' on the hotel TV, he falls in love with Pamela Anderson -- 'I wish to make love explosion on her stomach' and talks his manager into travelling to California, where Pamela lives.

Unable to afford a car, they embark on their journey in a decommisioned ice cream van, stopping along the way for encounters with a gay pride parade, a US senator somewhat shocked to be told he has just eaten cheese made from Borat's wife's breast milk and a gun store owner more than happy to recommend the best gun for 'shooting Jews.' It should be noted that Cohen himself is Jewish and the central premise of the film is to reveal hidden prejudices.

Not that they needed much revealing. An American hick at a rodeo expresses a strong preference for shooting homosexuals and Jews, whilst the assembled crowd at said rodeo are more than happy to cheer Borat's assertion that the US should bomb Iraq until not even a lizard is left alive. They only start boo-ing when he mangles the national anthem.

A visit to a dinner party at a Christian pastor's home proves particularly hilarious, Borat managing to insult the pastor's wife, mistake the word 'retired' for 'retard' and producing a bag of poo at the table. He rounds off a perfect evening by introducing a large black prostitute, at which point the good folk call the police.

A major row with his manager over the subject of 'Pamela' results in a naked tussle involving a lift full of hotel guests and a hall full of mortgage brokers having a meal. Borat's manager abandons him, leaving him with only a chicken and 17 cents for petrol. Even this generous allowance runs out quickly and he abandons the ice cream van for a crazy trip with some teenage frat boys who easily prove the most misoygnist and offensive characters in the film.

Borat winds up at a Pentecostalist Church, where the footage of the worshippers speaks entirely for itself. The sight of grown men shouting, babbling, falling over and crying is one of the most disturbing scenes in the film. Having been 'saved' and 'speaking in tongues', Borat gets a lift with the 'friends of Mr.Jesus' to Hollywood, where he is reunited with his manager and manages to track down Pamela. Having failed to persaude her to marry him by stuffing her into a sack, he returns home with his footage.

So what do we learn from Borat? Well first of all it's rib crushingly funny. But on other levels, it's both disturbing and philosophical. Borat himself is deliberately grotesque, a sexist racist with no grasp of basic decorum, yet he is likeable, an innocent abroad.
His encounters often reveal the truth behind the thin layer of 'civilised behaviour' and social etiquette, exposing the small-mindedness and grubby tribalism of the human condition.

It's rare to find a film that makes you laugh out loud yet makes you think as well. A triumph.

1 comment:

Hazel said...

That's great. I don't need to watch it now ;)