Nov 082006
Authors: Jeff Schwartz

“Borat” is a film of unabashed vulgarity that heedlessly and joyously gallops way over the boundary of good taste.

It’s also one of the most ingenious, sharply satirical, balls-out (in some scenes, literally) comedies I’ve ever seen.

The star of the film is, somewhat obviously, Borat Sagdiyev, a preternaturally cheerful Kazakhstani TV reporter, played by British comedian extraordinaire Sacha Baron Cohen.

Cohen first unveiled the shamelessly misogynistic and anti-semitic Borat on “Da Ali G Show,” a sort of “Saturday Night Live”/”Daily Show” concoction. Though the star of the show was Cohen’s character Ali G, a white hip-hop journalist, Borat, who became infamous for his hilariously disparaging remarks about Kazakhstan, was just as popular.

“Borat” essentially falls into the category of “mockumentary,” with Cohen, in character as Borat, traveling through America as cameras (visible and hidden) record his interactions with people who actually think he is a Kazakhstani journalist.

But enough about plot and background. While it’s definitely important to understand the premise of “Borat” to appreciate the humor, the real comedic joys of the film are found in its execution.

The best and funniest moments are the unscripted ones. There is a great scene where Borat goes to a rodeo in Dallas and tells the crowd: “[Kazakhstan] supports your war of terror,” and that he longs for the day when “Premier George W. Bush will drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq,” all of which fires up the crowd into a patriotic frenzy that is as funny to watch as it is frightening in its implications.

It’s during moments like these that you can glimpse the true, dare I say, genius of “Borat.”

The film is first and foremost a comedy and it does contain scenes so ribald that they, to quote Mel Brooks, “rise below vulgarity.”

I’m thinking here of the scene where Borat and his producer Azamat (Ken Davitan) have a fight in a hotel room and eventually end up wrestling nude for a solid two minutes. This is undeniably the grossest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie, but it is, in its own disgusting way, funny, and somewhat revolutionary, in its excess.

But “Borat” is also filled with scenes like the rodeo one described above; scenes where Borat’s sexism and racism expose similar attitudes that are still prevalent in America. It is these scenes that make “Borat” more than just a gross-out comedy.

However, the film is not quite an unequivocal masterpiece. The staged scenes, like when Borat and Azamat go their separate ways after their nudie scuffle, feel like contrived attempts to inject the story with some unnecessary poignancy.

Nevertheless, “Borat” is still, undoubtedly, one of the most innovative comedies in a long time.

The film is, as Borat would say, “verrry niiiice.”

Staff writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the individual author and not necessarily those of the Collegian.

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