Thursday, January 04, 2007

Borat

A lot has been written and spoken about Borat the movie. I went and caught the last showing at the local multiplex last night.

In essence it is a film about ignorance and intellectual snobbery that is too snobby itself to connect with much of its audience in anything other than a superficial way, and not intellectual enough to connect solidly with the remainder of the audience who, as a result of the accidents of upbringing, ethnic origin and education, would actually get the few references and attempts at irony of which there are a smattering. It is also full of moments of barely comic crudity and crassness. It is also, sadly, quite enjoyable.

The shots of Cohen squatting in the flowerbed outside a Manhattan office block, naked 'wrestling' with his grossly overweight screen buddy or the surely to be notorious dinner party-'pooping' moment are true slapstick. On the other hand his humiliation of several randomly interviewed individuals, at rodeos and on the street would be funny if they were truly original but sadly Ali G and Louis Theroux have already cornered this market. The joke 'let's go back to New York, there are no Jews there' fell totally flat here in Coffs. Not surprising. Why should such a reference, typical of the film's humour and definitive of its ironic slant, appeal to Middle Australia or indeed anyone outside of metropolitan elites in the Northern Hemisphere?

The film is edgy and has moments showing the talent that has got Baron-Cohen both into Cambridge and as far as this in the world of entertainment. It made me laugh and it made me, as an outsider here and also as a British Jew, feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I was laughing at the film, sometimes at the film maker and sometimes at the audience of which I was a part. I think that this may be what the writers intended. If so then the film is a success. If they intended also to illuminate the ignorant then they may have ended up being too clever for their own good.

7 comments:

ml said...

nice review. i haven't seen the movie, but am a fan of the Ali G show. one thing this movie has done is to give Sacha Baron Cohen exposure. he really was unknown in america, at least to the main stream audience before Borat came out.

as long as we are talking about movies, have u seen The Departed? two big thumbs up! it was the first movie in a long time that i actually noticed good talent from ameriacan actors. british actors have pretty much taken over hollywood lately….

jb said...

I have not seen, or indeed heard of The Departed. Will look it up.

SBC started in the UK on a late night satirical show called the 11 oclock show. Early Ali G sketches were a lot more raw, provocative and full of energy than the current incarnation of that character. If you can track them down u should have a look. Very referential of UK multiculturalism and v antiestablishment. The joke always of course being that SBC is a jewish cambridge grad from north London.

BTW how did you come across my blog? And where is yours?

jb said...

also ml, what is your line of work?

ml said...

i am in the money business jb, quite similar to what you used to do in your previous life. would prefer to do what you do right now though.
the first time I got on your blog I think was when I googled this elusive ashtanga teacher. i don't know that many men who practice yoga and watch good movies. are u gay? because here on the east coast, guys that practice yoga are either gay or from california :) sorry, i don;t blog and actually don't read that many blogs. thanks for the info on SBC. will look for the 11 oclock show. let me know what you think of the departed!

susiegb said...

Yeah, I saw Borat with a couple of friends and even John, who's a builder said that he was laughing but embarrassed to be laughing!

I think my British repressed-ness is showing by the fact that I found the 'toilet humour' the most disturbing ...

And I have to say I never found Ali G funny. I love Little Britain and the Office, and the Aussie Kath and Kim, but Ali G just left me cold ... :)

jb said...

yeah, i'll agree with susie on the toilet humour front.

re: sexuality, nope am not gay! it doesnt help with doing the asana.

ml said...

so my neighbor R&M invited me over for dinner. both are attorneys from Okalahoma and R has a big job with the current administration. another neighbor L, a big liberal who used to work for Clinton and has been pretty much unemployed for the last 6 yrs, was there too. we ended up talking about Borat, and R&M were disgusted with L for seeing the movie and commented how horrible it was for Borat to con innocent people (&politicians). obviously they had no clue who SBC was and they were just glad that Borat stopped in Texas and didn’t make it to Okalahoma. guess i need to take back what i said about SBC getting exposure in middle america.