neljapäev, november 09, 2006

A little bit about Borat

I haven't seen it yet, but I am looking forward to seeing Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Sacha Baron Cohen's portrayal of the racist, sexist, and backward Kazakh reporter has won impressive movie reviews, and also, in its own way, boosted Kazakhstan's international profile in good and bad ways.

While I find Borat pretty funny - especially when he is 'disco dancing' - some, especially Kazakhs, aren't laughing. However, as Gauhar Abdygaliyeva writes this week in the Washington Post, any publicity is often good publicity:

The "moviefilm" by Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," is playing well in American theaters. One can only applaud the humorist's talent, but the movie is entertaining only because the world is so unfamiliar with reality.

Perhaps that will change. The movie has already created unprecedented interest in Kazakhstan. Not only has Borat promoted our name and flag, he has also indirectly fueled a great wave of patriotism among my fellow citizens.

I think Estonians are breathing a sigh of relief that Cohen didn't decide to make his character from Estonia. But for all his pokes at post-Communist stereotypes a few things can be said.

1) Borat is funny because he's accurate.


I had a Russian cab driver in San Francisco this year that resembled Cohen's Borat character. And he spoke like him. And he listened to bad 1980s-style pop music. And his whole outfit was made of denim. I also have seen plenty of European men who prefer the lime green speedo to American-style swimming shorts. In other words, the
Borat character is an exaggeration, but he's grounded in reality. If he wasn't grounded in reality, he wouldn't be as funny.

2. Borat is funny because we're ignorant.

I am not sure why, but few have raised the idea that Borat is funny because we are laughing at our own ignorant vision of what the world is like. Borat not only makes fun of Kazakhs and post-communist countries, but he makes fun of our ideas about what Kazakhstan is like. He indulges us in our own perverted version of the world, where there are prostitution contests and women are forced to ride on the outside of buses. Of course we know that's not true, and by exaggerating our ideas about this country, we are quietly making fun of our own ignorance.

I think the latter is the most important. Our country - the US - is the kind of place where people will go see a film like Terminator 3 just to see Arnold Schwarzeneger blow something up. They don't care about plots or acting ability. They just want to be entertained. And that's my final point.


3. Borat is funny ... because he's funny.


How often do you get to see a guy bring a chicken on the subway in a suitcase?!

9 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

It's a guilty pleasure...but think about it, how ticked off would we be if it was about Estonia? I remember how angry the Latvians were when Seinfeld had that episode about "Latvian Orthodox" -- what if the movie was about a Borat-looking guy with a bowtie? :o

Martasmimi ütles ...

Oh come on....What the world needs is to take things like this for what they are.. "Very Funny"

There is a movie out now based on the murder of President Bush...
It uses real footage of Bush.
I don't like George Bush but this is very "creepy" usage of a movie theater.

plasma-jack ütles ...

There was a sketch in a show called "Monkey Dust" of BBC 3. As Wikipedia says, there is amongst other characters "an apparently kindly and elderly man who is a former high ranking member of the Nazi party and was almost certainly active in their numerous war crimes. He has an unfortunate tendency to attend a formal occasion such as a wedding or court hearing, but finds he has nothing left to wear except his Nazi coat with a swastika armband, inevitably leading to trouble (for example at a wedding or a court case)."
So in one episode he mentions that he worked few years in Estonia, when he was young, i.e. the 40s.

I like Monkey Dust.

plasma-jack ütles ...

But the real Kazakh pop music sounds like this:

http://ziza.ru/2006/08/30/zhest-uhodyaszeho-mesyaca.html

oliver ütles ...

I think (or hope?) that Estonia would have been bad choice. I have no illusions about how well-known Estonia is or isn't. My friends once met a doctor of economics at the university in Spain who thought Estonia was some island in the Pacific Ocean. And we are supposed to be in the same Union... Things are even worse with less-educated people or with regions far away (let's say U, S and A). Still, there should be plenty of people who have deeper interest in mmm... classical music, IT, history (WW II, Cold War), maybe even wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and so on. These people should have some clues about Estonia. But what do we know about Kazakhstan anyway? Not much. Even me, and I consider myself good at geography and history (like Estonians and small nations in general). Let's see - has suffered some heavy russification, independent since 1991, strong school system - literacy rate best in the region (higher than many European countries and USA), home of good chess-players and great cross-country skier Vladimir "Smirre" Smirnov (now retired)

Actually, there’s a part for Estonia in this "movie film" too.
Almost half of this clip is "Estonian", and I don't mean Soviet (obviously Mr. Cohen and the directors did), because you couldn't have found anything like this anywhere else in the Soviet Union. This clip is actually relatively important part of the movie, so I wouldn’t recommend to watch it before you see the movie itself. (keyword: Harry Egipt)
the clip


SEMI-SPOILERS AHEAD

About the movie. It is insulting and banal-vulgar-funny, or is it? I'm not a fan of this kind of comedy - "poop-humor" if you wish, but in this film (as in The Ali G Show) you overlook it, cause it serves the higher purpose – to bring out the ignorance of certain people – it's all about Anti-Anti-Semitism, Anti-Racism, Anti-Bush and so on. And it's not Kazakhstan who took the worst beating, it's the United States. People he meets are either hospitable but stupid (simpleminded?)/racist/disrespectful to women, hostile, plain crazy (Pentecostal Christians) or mmm... gay. Maybe I missed someone and some scenes were probably staged, but this doesn't change the overall bad image of USA and its people this movie is trying to give. Now see what happened - I thought and said too much... Despite all that I still find it the best comedy of the year. A must see – love it or hate it.

oliver ütles ...

Oh, and the soundtrack of the movie is great! Some fine examples of Balkan/Gypsy music. The brothers Cohen's songs are also quite enjoyable :)

Giustino ütles ...

Still, there should be plenty of people who have deeper interest in mmm... classical music

Arvo Part is very well respected amongst musicians. He even has his own "MySpace" page and thousands of 'friends.'

Anonüümne ütles ...

I've seen the movie yesterday and had a lot of laugh...However, that movie is not about Kazakhstan but about america...just try to imagine how a "simple-minded" guy would have his first impression of a country he enters the first time...in the case of us&a: narrow minded, racialist, sexist and orthodox people surrounding him..however, as far as I know is that movie in US a big success...but i am affright that the majority just laugh about Borat the simple-minded guy from an unknown country, and not realized the mirror he is holding and the cliches about america he is prsenting

Giustino ütles ...

however, as far as I know is that movie in US a big success...but i am affright that the majority just laugh about Borat the simple-minded guy from an unknown country, and not realized the mirror he is holding and the cliches about america he is prsenting

Well, you shouldn't get the projection of American power mixed up with how real Americans view themselves. And the movie hits at all of us - from rude New Yorkers to racist southerners to image-obsessed Californians. It's nothing to be ashamed about. I'd love to see "Borat goes to Estonia" so we could all get a good dose of Estonian pig-headedness :)