Kazakhstan has a pretty sunny disposition for what is, ostensibly, a hellhole. In the middle of this dirt patch between Russia and China lies, a man toils to make his life better. He makes his living as a television reporter for Kazakhstan TV and his sister is the fourth most popular prostitute in the country. His name is Borat Sagdiyev, he has a moustache reserved for used car dealers, and he's just landed on American shores.
Dreamt up by Sacha Baron Cohen
on some lucid night, Borat is a creation of surreptitious glee. An anti-Semite to the nth degree, he badmouths the "nitwit" enemy nation of Uzbekistan, calls his pain-in-the-ass neighbor a girl for having an iPod mini instead of an iPod, and likes to make "sexy time" with his mother-in-law. This is just in Kazakhstan; America is chock full of more dangerous, giddy propositions. Article continues below
Aided only by Ken Davitian
(who plays his producer, Azamat), Cohen is a one-man-army of prodding laughs and ingenious performance art. Every laugh delivered by this transplanted outsider slowly peels away layers of false niceties and political correctness. On a small motor-home heading to California, three college frat boys divulge that slavery should be brought back and that women, Jews, and Muslims aren't worth a damn. None of the "regular" people interviewed in the film are in on the joke that this is a mockumentary and that Borat is not really the yokel he pretends to be.
Directed by Seinfeld writer and Curb Your Enthusiasm/Entourage alumnus Larry Charles
, Borat has to be the most unapologetically crass attack on the morals and values of America to reach these shores since the boys of South Park took to the big screen. Even better, these are laughs that never are scared of their audience or their timeliness. On his way to California to capture his "virgin bride" Pamela Anderson
, Borat faces scenarios that coyly bring out America's own inherent anti-Semitism and homophobic tendencies. In the film's penultimate scene, Borat and Azamat face off in a naked wrestling match brought on by Borat catching his producer masturbating to a photo of Pamela. Replete with black bars, the two hairy bodies go into damn near every position imaginable and roll from their hotel room to a business convention going on the first floor; if Cohen doesn't coax out our fears in subtle ways, he takes drastic measures to make sure we get it.
A Cambridge scholar from a firmly Jewish family, Cohen could have probably written papers for the rest of his life (his thesis was on Jewish Culture and the Civil Rights Movement). Instead, with Borat and his other characters, he has deviously found laughter as a key to sneaking in on hypocrites and the ridiculousness of modern American culture. Cohen's obsession with the foul and perverse might make for an awkward view for some, but you can never blame Cohen for going too far when most films barely pass the starting line. His use of a tactless, chauvinistic alien thrown into our cultural hodgepodge brings new meaning to thoughtful humor and rethinks satire as an open minefield rather than a target at the end of a sniper rifle. At a rodeo in the southern states, Borat is met with thunderous applause when he tells a crowd that he hopes "Premier Bush drinks the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq" only moments after a rodeo master tells him he hopes they hang the homosexuals at the gallows. God help us all.