Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Dir. Larry Charles. 2006. R. 82mins.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Pamela Anderson.
Jagshemash! …as no self-respecting Kazakh would say. But the indignation of that slighted nation notwithstanding, our man Borat (Baron Cohen) isn’t out to offend any Eastern Europeans. A repository of overaffectionate greetings, unwitting anti-Semitism and aggressive solicitations for “sexy time,” Baron Cohen’s intrepid TV reporter is really out to make Americans squirm. His new film—whose Toronto premiere was itself punk’d when a projector broke and Michael Moore took the stage—features some of the most fearless, topical jokes outside of the “Terror Taxi” segment in Jackass Number Two.
Sent to America to make a documentary, his character takes Candid Camera to cathartically vulgar new heights. He confronts Alan Keyes with the specter of the gay community (“Are you telling me the man who put a rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?”), tramples over the jingoism of a Virginia rodeo audience, and—in a showstopper of a nude-wrestling scene—one-ups John Cameron Mitchell by adding ass hair.
Google the interviewees: Many are real people who’ve never seen Da Ali G Show, some of them prone to alarmingly casual statements about what they wouldn’t mind seeing done to Jews, gays and women. If Baron Cohen flirts with offense, it’s only in the name of exposing it, dispelling it and, of course, making you laugh. As Borat would say, “Nice.”—Ben Kenigsberg