Borat

The Borat movie is as hilarious as it is offensive which is leagues beyond any movie I’ve ever seen and well over the top of any contemporary “reality”-based media. The movie’s strength comes from Sacha Baron Cohen’s absolute fearlessness in using his character of an ignorant Kazakh reporter to satirize American culture through “real” interviews in which the subjects did not know that Borat was an actor. These interviews and scenes are cut into the plot of the movie as Borat travels across the US supposedly making a documentary about America “For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

The movie has ruffled the feathers of Kazakhstan’s president and only highlighted that country’s illiberal treatment of media. But portraying the movie as somehow anti-Kazakhstani ignores how hilariously anti-American it is. In other words, both cultures get a proper skewering. In fact, one could argue that the Americans get skewered more since the scenes in “Kazakhstan” weren’t even shot there and it’s plain that those scenes are fictitious while the scenes of Borat interacting with Americans blur the lines between reality and fiction with clever edits and set-ups. Even when you’re pretty sure you’re watching something that’s been set-up (the American prostitute, for example), the edits and the tone of the film work to keep you guessing.

So much of the film’s comedy relies on the surprise at seeing him do or say something completely out of the realm of good taste that it’s difficult to discuss the film. I don’t want to give anything away. Simply put, it makes Team America look like a training video on multi-cultural tolerance.

In an age when cultural sensitivity has been taken to a ruthless extreme, it’s shocking to watch a movie that isn’t in the least bit aware of political correctness. But that’s the film Cohen has made. One whose comedy shocks the breath out of you.

[cross-posted at Nashville Independent]