Film note: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Directed by Larry Charles
USA, 2020

Originally published on Letterboxd with 1 like.

I’m not going to bother going back to scan Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous Borat movie, which I remember enjoying with a room full of hooting young polyglot Romanians, but this one made me chuckle, oh, maybe 5 times, I guess, and look at my watch, so to speak, more than that. I do appreciate the mildly transgressive vibe but most of it relies on scatlogical and sexual digust for its impact.

That’s not exactly visionary, is it? 

For sure, I could have done without the horrifying sight of Rudy Giuliani, one of the most venal, stupid, and Trump-obsequious vampires in public life right now, sticking his hand down his pants to adjust his junk. But judging by his promotion of it and its viral popularity, Cohen and the culture at large apparently believe that scene, besides being a glorious gotcha, also represents some kind of demotic moment of moral clarity. Never mind the obnoxious and elitist caricatures of Kazakhstan that bookend the movie. All for the greater good, I guess.

However, if that is the apotheosis of leftist cultural satire, we’re all in a bit of trouble, something amply demonstrated by the US election results now coming in. But no one’s likely to learn anything from any of that or from Borat, as far as I can tell.

Film scholar David Bordwell, as usual, has an interesting take on Borat, declaiming it a modern example of the grotesque. As I said on Twitter: like his work on Christopher Nolan, Bordwell’s opinions on these films are a lot more interesting than the works themselves.

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