Movie Review: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

 

Going through the 1001 movies list, it’s interesting to see which selections from recent years make it and then get removed with each edition. Somehow, this is one of the 1001. Now, I’ve previously mentioned that I’m not a big fan of what passes for comedy these days, where it’s more about pain and hurting others along with every raunchy word you can think of. I found a two dollar copy at a thrift store and decided to see what exactly made this noteworthy.

The basis of this mockumentary of sorts is that a foreigner tries to learn about American culture in order to improve his country’s appearance. Borat’s interactions with Americans range from learning about humor from a humor coach to hitching a ride with frat boys. These appear to be skits of some kind but with the way the story unfolds, it’s about trying to understand the many facets of American culture and balancing between each one.

Take the dinner scene, for example. In between the event, we see Borat interview the etiquette specialist about what is considered proper behavior in the company of strangers. The response does align with what Borat believes is acceptable but the underlying context of what Americans find acceptable is significantly different as it plays out over the course of dinner. Because of the misunderstanding of the response, the situation becomes funny in the context of the onlooker. If I were to be a part of the dinner party, I would have shown the same reaction, not once in hindsight think it was a laughing matter.

Now, this movie isn’t without it’s issues. The fact that most of this happened unscripted in the general public is a bit hard to comprehend. Sure, people signed release forms but I don’t think they had expected things like Borat and his producer run naked through a hotel and crash a business dinner. You would think that if you had to sign a release form for something you had no prior knowledge of, you’d be suspicious. I can’t imagine what the impact was for each business that unknowingly participated in this film and find out that it wasn’t what they expected.

I do have to give the design people some praise for packaging. When I bought it at the store and came home to open the case, I was worried that somehow I got a pirated disc by mistake. But I found the little word “WIDESCREEN” off to the side and I just smiled. These people went the extra mile to make the contents of the package a unified whole. I found this to be similar to the DVD design for Be Kind Rewind, though with that it looks like a regular DVD but with “Sweded” marked on an illustration of yellow tape. It would have worked better if they went the route of Borat but that came out two years after Borat and it would have looked like plagiarism. Still, in the words of Borat, very nice!

I didn’t expect to like the movie but in the end, I realized that it’s more about how we appear to others and that communication is necessary in order to connect with others. Borat tries his best but it doesn’t always work for those inadvertently involved with his efforts. It’s a matter of seeking to be understood as to understand.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

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