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"Borat"s Cohen just may be the most brilliant satirist of his time

by JD Warnock on November 2, 2006

in Print Reviews

I watched most of “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” with my hand over my face in disapproval and awe. Sacha Baron Cohen has got to be the most daring satirist of our time and his laser sharp faux-documentary is as cruel as it is unbelievably funny.

The overwhelming mystery behind Cohen’s work is…how in the world does he pull it off? Cohen’s interviews are far more daring than anything on “The Daily Show” – the place to find some of the best ulterior-motive interviews on television. There are several instances in the film when Cohen’s life is undoubtedly in actual danger.

The payoff is extraordinary. He gets footage of real people interacting with a fictional character whom they perceive to be vulnerable and naive when in fact, they are unwitting pawns in an elaborate scheme by a Cambridge educated comedic genius.

For example, at one point in the film Borat waltzes into a Texas rodeo and sings – to the tune of the American National Anthem – a deliberately inaccurate Kazakhstan anthem that starts out claiming Kazakhstan is the best country in the world and moves on to bragging rights about the men and their potassium. By mid point the crowd has completely turned to a deafening sea of boos and jeers. Standing solo in the center of “Don’t Mess With Texas-territory” and firing up the locals – now that, my friends, is fortitude.

Despite the fact that I knew going into the film that Cohen is Jewish, and obviously doesn’t share the the anti-semitic sentiment expressed by his character Borat, I still found much of it mortifying. If you had no background on Cohen it would be difficult to appreciate the style of satire he is using so effectively i.e. act like a racist and its amazing how comfortable people are letting their true feelings out. As much as anything, “Borat” is a movie about American culture and the truths discovered in various reactions to Borat’s exaggerated “foreigner” persona.

I don’t recommend this movie to the faint of heart.  It is brutal – brutally funny and brutally harsh. I expect a lot from Cohen, but this was a shock. “Borat” is simply the most subversive, the most potentially controversial, comedy film I have ever seen. 

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