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Old 4th Dec 2006, 10:52   #1
John Self
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Default Borat

Or to give it its full title (which doesn't fit into the title bar) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Now then: we headed out last night to see the multiply eulogised Pan's Labyrinth, only to find out local independent cinema with its doors closed, "due to staffing problems"! So off to the nearest multiplex and Borat turned out to be the next thing on.

And talk about bathos! Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous! Borat for me is in a shortlist of one for worst film of the year. It aims low - laugh at the funny confused people! - and fails to deliver. Did Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian (a reliably unreliable source at the best of times), who gave it five stars, really see the same film? Even the reliably reliable Philip French in the Observer was, I think, being generous when he called it "sporadically amusing."

If we take as a starting point the proposition - surely unarguable - that it's not funny to try to embarrass people when they're doing their best to be kind and hospitable to you, then Borat falls on its face for about 70% of its running time. A patient driving instructor; a professionally unflappable TV anchorman; an elderly B&B-owning couple: Sacha Baron Cohen's targets are not exactly brave or difficult. In almost all cases the people respond to him with politeness and tolerance, and indeed there are many encounters which are cut off after the initial greeting, presumably because they never developed into anything funny.

And then about 25% of the film is scripted stuff which is equally rib-untickling, consisting mostly of irate, subtitled exchanges between Borat and his obese, hairy producer, including one long naked fight scene which makes Bubbles in Little Britain look like the height of comic sophistication. That's the problem throughout: if the scenes are scripted (it's sometimes unclear), they're not funny enough; if they're improvised, they're unremarkable.

Which leaves the final 5%, which seems to be the parts which were used - if not by the filmmakers then by the critics who praised the film - to justify its blunt 'humour', the notion that this was a satirical masterpiece where the appearance of the naive foreign reporter gave unreconstructed homophobes, racists and bigots just enough rope to hang themselves. In fact it only happens twice: once when a guy at the rodeo rails against Muslims and homosexuals, and once when one of a trio of repellent frat boys makes some vague references to 'minorities' having all the rights (after the crew took them out and got them drunk to loosen their tongues). That's it. The much-vaunted scene at the rodeo where Borat earns the crowd's applause for urging George W Bush to "drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq" actually shows the applause becoming increasingly scattered and polite at this stage (and the boos which accompany his rendition of the Kazakh national anthem were clearly dubbed on afterwards, as we don't see anyone close-up jeering him even though they managed to have half a dozen cameras trained on sections of the crowd cheering him earlier).

And then there's the belittling cruelty of the opening and closing scenes in the film, set in 'Kazakhstan' (actually Romania), basically getting chuckles out of how crap these people's lives are and how hilariously primitive they seem. Little wonder that the villagers are suing the filmmakers for misrepresenting the nature of their enterprise to them (they were told they were participating in a film about poverty). Good luck to them.

There's no satire, intelligence, wit or merit in Bore-at. At an hour and 20 minutes it's too long, and if it had been shown on C4 for free I would have felt short changed. It has done incredibly well in cinemas both here and in the US. The world has gone mad.

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Old 4th Dec 2006, 12:08   #2
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Default Re: Borat

Mark Kermode agrees with you:-

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/do...eviews/rss.xml
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Old 4th Dec 2006, 12:15   #3
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Default Re: Borat

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including one long naked fight scene
Haven't seen the film and don't intend to, but intrigued to know - is this done as a DH Lawrence pastiche?
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Old 4th Dec 2006, 12:19   #4
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Default Re: Borat

My son and a gang of his mates went to see this on Saturday and they thought it was hysterical - probably exactly the age it is meant to amuse.
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Old 4th Dec 2006, 12:24   #5
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Default Re: Borat

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Originally Posted by Hekaterine View Post
Haven't seen the film and don't intend to, but intrigued to know - is this done as a DH Lawrence pastiche?
Women In Love was the film I thought of when witnessing that scene. The thing I though hilarious was that Baron Cohen had saw fit to put a black censor strip over his penis during the fight when, having seen a penis already in the film, it was obviously not needed. Maybe he's just smaller than the black strip suggested.

It was a poor film, although I did find myself laughing in places. Mostly on the New York subway when people threatened to beat the shit out of him. The chicken on the subway, I thought, was funny. But as John says, it's full of base laughs, weak setups, and interviews over before they begin because there was nothing to seize upon within them.
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Old 4th Dec 2006, 12:31   #6
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Default Re: Borat

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Originally Posted by yjmli
Mark Kermode agrees with you
Thank god someone does. Looking at the Guardian summary of reviews, most of the national press gave it four or five stars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart
Maybe he's just smaller than the black strip suggested
Yes, I guess part of the joke was that the strip was huge to suggest that Borat was unfeasibly well hung.
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Old 4th Dec 2006, 19:19   #7
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Default Re: Borat

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unfeasibly well hung
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Old 5th Dec 2006, 10:23   #8
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Default Re: Borat

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Originally Posted by youjustmightlikeit View Post
Yes, for about the third week running he's been lamenting the fact that none of his movie-reviewing peers are willing to agree that the emperor really isn't wearing any clothes. I can't be bothered to listen through again, but I'm sure he mentioned at one point that someone else in th Guardian was beginning to come around to the idea that it wasn't any good.

Myself, I'm simply not interested. I suspect I'd find it amusing enough - I'm often slightly ashamed of my ability to find stupid things funny - but my good intentions thankfully have put Borat at the very bottom of the long list of films I'd be willing to see. Certainly Tenacious D is way above it, and I have no particular plans to see that either.
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Old 7th Dec 2006, 2:54   #9
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Default Re: Borat

I went to see it and yes, I laughed, out loud a couple of times. But it really wasn't anywhere near as good as the papers had suggested. Most of it he's done before on TV anyway and the naked fight scene was pretty cringeworthy for want of a better word. Far better I think to pay to see something else and wait for Film4 to put it on for free, I wouldn't waste your money on the DVD.
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Old 8th Dec 2006, 18:14   #10
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Default Re: Borat

Saw this film several weeks ago. I could easily lived out my life time with out seening some of the scenes in this movie !! It amazes me beyond any way to express how this can be as popular as it is.
I saw another movie a short time afterwards titled "Babel" which in my estimation is one of the best films I've seen in many years. It was not in theaters for long and it was panned by many of the critics. The film did have it's Hollywood schtick in some parts but it said so much on so many levels........but then,the movie does make one think and I have a feeling that the general idea is to NOT have to think too much.
Has anyone else seen this ? I went with a friend of mine and I haven't talked to anyone else who has seen it, most often they haven't even heard of it.

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