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Monday, November 6

Borat

I remember Sacha Baron Cohen's last film - Ali G Inda House, which actually, wasn't technically his last movie, since he appears to have been playing bit parts in a bunch of other stuff, but it's close enough for me. I remember watching it at the cinema and also a couple of times at home. This movie was, quite simply, hilarious with lots of exploration of a very silly character and enough changes in pace and direction to keep it funny. However, the character of Ali G was changed from an apparent fool, extracting truths from unsuspecting members of the public, into a simply silly character, contrasted against a vaguely real world (in this case politics). It had some great moments and great lines in it.

I was keen, therefore, to see Borat, which promised more of the off-beat humour packaged within a character who is clearly incorrect in his entire attitude to life (I don't just mean politically incorrect, I mean just wrong). The fact that the movie was shot with the aid of unwitting members of the general public made it clearly more interesting. However, if I was expecting a catalogue of pranks in the style of Trigger Happy TV, Jackass, or any of Ali G's previous work, then I was wrong. This movie is something else.

There is a narrative, some of which looks like it has the gloss of a retrospective threading together of the elements of the movie, and some of which looks like it has emerged from the general purpose road-trip across America that Borat undertakes in order to try to meet the girl of his dreams - Pamela Anderson.

It's hard to see where the process of making this movie stops and Borat begins. In some ways, you might imagine that they've genuinely driven across the country looking for amusing ways in which Borat can interact with American culture. In other ways, you can see some clearly orchestrated set pieces. The set pieces, including streaking, prostitutes and the bull-in-a-china-shop scene, are simply wonderful. What makes it more wonderful is the way that Borat's character virtually never slips, even when he's gotten himself royally drunk with a bunch of frat-boys, themselves on a road trip. It may aswell be real. That's its charm.

With voiceover lines that clearly come out of the Ali G/Sacha Baron Cohen school of saying something in exactly the wrong way, and with scripted and unscripted moments of comic perfection, this movie has a lot going for it.

It was very nice to be in a cinema where the audience were laughing out loud during much of the film. They even applauded at some points.

To be honest, there's no real reason behind this film. Had it explored the dark underbelly of Americana and revealed something earth shattering - like a Michael Moore film might want to - then it would be good terrorist-comedy. It doesn't. Does it reveal anything much about the human condition? No. Does it teach us anything except that it's funny to laugh when taboos are breached? No. If there's anything which truly comes out of this film, it's probably a subtle message about how racism is wrong. Borat's extreme anti-semitism is played against a very friendly Jewish couple who run a bed and breakfast. He does not do anything to oppress them, instead, playing a very straight set of irrational fears about shape-shifting Jews being evil and wanting to attack him. He never says a word of this to the couple. All we see is someone being irrationally scared as a result of their racism, in an environment of kindness. If anything can show racism for what it is, then this scene is up there.

Watch Borat. Or don't. It's up to you. I enjoyed it.

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