The Red Right Hand

Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan

Larry Charles
Sacha Baron Cohen
Ken Davitian

Borat is a funny film; I know that's a pretty abysmal start but I genuinely don't know how else to convey it. I've attempted this review a number of times and it has consistently broken down into a dribbling mess of giggles and scene references. It's one of the best genuine satires I have seen in a long time, as opposed to just goofiness for the sake of it. The plot is incredibly simple and combines Sacha Baron Cohen's unique ability to improvise (completely dead-pan) with a candid camera style framework. American moviegoers aren't used to the Beadle's About set-up comedy like the British; over the years it has been adapted with things like Punk'd but even this has it's limitations, tiptoeing around real issues - namely people instead of nations. By creating a film with the front of an ill-informed TV presenter from Khazakhstan, Cohen and director Larry Charles (generally known for his work writing for Seinfeld, Mad About You, Dilbert & Curb Your Enthusiasm) have managed to successfully produce one of the most astute comical analysis of American divisions and sub-cultures. Of course, not all Americans are like this - starting in New York doesn't exactly yield the best of cinematic results but once he makes his way across the country to California, via the Southern States, every scene had the audience breaking down into a damp-trousered hysteria. One of the key aspects to this film, something that needs to be remembered throughout the review is that almost nothing is staged or scripted, the reactions are all natural

Borat arrives in New York with his producer, Azamat [Davitian], to a very cold and unwelcoming USA. As he makes his way through a subway carriage he is greeted with confusion and hostility - granted he is trying to kiss all the men and releases a menacing, biting chicken. In his hotel room, watching television, Borat catches a few minutes of Baywatch. Coming from a nation that hides women away (not to mention a menacing wife who threatened to 'snap off his cock') Borat can't believe what he is seeing and instantly falls in love with CJ. Azamat bursts in and rushes the entranced Borat out of the hotel as he has a meeting with a feminist group - to whom he explains that a Khazak scientist has 'proven' that women have brains equal to that of a squirrel's. It's here that he learns that CJ is an actress named Pamela Anderson, who lives in California. Leaving the interview (more a case of offending everyone until they walked off), Borat convinces Azamat to travel with him across the states to California, to get a better taste of American life. With limited funding they obtain the only transport they can, an ice cream truck. The next hour is pretty much non-stop, only slowing down once - after Borat and Azamat have run naked through their hotel, the lobby and an annual broker's dinner party, fighting each other they are thrown out and Azamat takes everything and leaves - using a skilful combination of staged interviews and interacting with the people he stumbles across on his journey.

One of the reasons everything works so well is that Borat is an innocently ignorant (not to mention sexist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic) tourist, which is the exact same qualities displayed by certain American tourists. It's almost as if he represents a third-world doppelganger of the American nation. I know, that's probably ridiculous to hear but you honestly have to see the film to understand. A myriad of satire, spoof and slapstick elements are all used effectively but be warned, this film is going to be extremely offensive to the majority of the audience (even if they're laughing at the same time); for example, speaking with a ('chocolate faced') US Governor about attending a 'traditional American parade' then going home and showering with a couple of men - only to be informed that they were homosexuals. Borat's eyes widen; in a state of shock he slumps back into the chair. When he finally manages to talk he mutters, "So the men last night who stick rubber fist in my butta were homosexuals?"

Release Date:
3rd November 2006

The Scene To Look Out For:
One of two, I'll let you decide which is better: In a brief explanation at the start of the film, we are told that the Kazaks don't like Jews. At one point, Azamat and Borat enter a bed & breakfast to find the owners are Jewish. Throughout the night the two men refuse to eat or sit still, taking the first opportunity to bolt out the door. It's a simple plot device but the awkward silences, tension and grimacing faces add to the ridiculous humour of the whole film. The second scene is set the day after Azamat has left, Borat begins hitchhiking across the Southern States. Finally, he's picked up by a group of drunken frat boys in a camper van. Everything they say is disgustingly sexist, moronic and generally embarrassing. God help the states if these are the kind of numskulls they're pumping out of universities (not that the UK is much better).

Notable Characters:
Borat, unquestionably.

Highlighted Quote:
"We just need to get that moustache off so you're not so conspicuous, so maybe you look like an Italian, or something, as far as people looking at ya. I see a lot of people and I think, 'There's a dang-gum muslim, I wonder what kinda bomb he's got strapped to him' and you probably aren't a muslim, that's not your religion... but you look like one of 'em. This thing gets over with and when we win it and kick the butts over there and all them son-of-bucks hanging from gallows.. by that time you'll have proven yourself and they'll understand and you'll be accepted."

In A Few Words:
"Both exceptionally funny and offensive on all levels; but may doubtlessly be labelled anti-semitic and be an issue of controversy to see"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon