Tuesday, 14 November 2006

"Sexy Time?"

Over the weekend I went to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. It was absolutely hilarious. I can’t remember the last time in a cinema I have laughed so hard I missed the next few jokes.

It’s funny all the way through, there is barely a quiet moment throughout the whole thing. On the New York subway, at the rodeo, in hotels, at dinner parties, everywhere he goes is laugh out loud funny. You never feel like any of the people he’s fooling don’t deserve it, although the sequence at the TV station apparently indirectly cost one producer her job.

It mixes scripted comedy and ‘documentary’ really well. Directed by Larry Charles of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of the writers was Peter Baynam, co-writer of Alan Partridge and frequent Chris Morris collaborator.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat manages to do what Chris Morris does well, and that is to just nudge people’s predilection for talking rubbish out of them. He subtly coaxes their prejudices and hatred from them, their supposed social an intellectual superiority and in the process makes them look extremely stupid.

I remember the late TV producer Harry Thompson wrote an article in The Guardian about Borat’s predecessor Ali G. In it he spoke of why Ali G worked so well and what he had that reminded him of Morris.

“I had the opportunity to observe Chris Morris at first-hand, in what would have been his first British TV series had a contractual difficulty with another performer not prevented it from reaching the airwaves. I hired him to interview members of the public who had sent in letters of complaint about TV programmes. During the interviews, he hardly spoke. His genius lay in knowing when to nudge them gently and when to let them talk; and talk they did, spouting the most amazing bollocks and making Morris's point for him.”

Thompson also highlighted the difference between this type of comedy and shows that seem to think that going up to people and merely saying or doing something stupid and then watching their reaction is where funny lies.

Balls of Steel and Phonejacker didn’t exist at the time this article was written, but they are perfect examples of this type of horrible, humourless and hateful programme.

There’s a fine line between the idiot baiting that Baron Cohen has perfected and simply attempting to make a fool of someone.

Here’s that article in full.

So to recap, go to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, it’s funny.

David Edelstein a film critic in the New Yorker hated the film and here he explains why. Basically his argument is all the things I said the film was not. He thinks Borat made fun of people. He sure did, but pretty much all of them thought they were smarter or superior in some way to him. Never once did anyone say, ‘hold on, you’re taking the piss’. (Although I guess some people must have, in footage that wasn’t used.)

And although Edelstein points out that Borat was rude to some people who were being nice, (if acting superior) to him, there were plenty of people who were extremely rude to him. If you’ve seen it leave a comment to say if you enjoyed it or thought it was offensive.

This is an article from Salon.com about what was real in Borat and what was not. You probably don't want to read it unless you've seen the picture.

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