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Boo Borat or Praise Him?
Borat Sagdiyev ... anti-Semitic? He's anti-ziganistic!
"We are accusing him of defamation and inciting violence against Sinti and Roma [gypsies]," Marko Knudsen, chief of the European Center for Antiziganism (anti-gypsies) Research, declared to Reuters.
Gee, and Borat thought he had it rough with the Jews.
"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" opens Nov. 3 to a parade of poop dragged in by a horse and carriage that has nothing to do with love and marriage -- unless, one believes that Sacha Baron Cohen and his Kazakhstan stand-in, are the best mind-meld since Lucy and Desi -- in a more dizzying, daffy sense.
Cohen, of course, is the Orthodox comic with decidedly unorthodox and unctuous leanings, whose "Da Ali G Show" showed that good taste and good comedy don't have to go hand in hand.
Hand it to him; the brash Brit comedian has put prejudice on a pedestal and then promptly kicked it to the pavement, all the while people wondering just how -- or why -- he did it in the first place.
If "Borat" the film teaches anything -- and that in itself is almost a frightening thought -- it is that the Yiddish translation of in vino veritas is "in Manischewitz mishugas."
As Borat -- one of several severe Cohen semi-literates who made his iconoclastic British, then American import, so imbecilicly ideal -- might advise Jewish members of the audience: "Be forewarned, those with no foreskin; there will be cash throwaway at end of movie, so don't stampede."
He doesn't say that, but may as well. And the stampede may just be at the box office, where Borat and his uncommonly uncomely crew invade America -- "the US and A" -- to help backward Kazakhs back home get their own Levi jeans. (Unless of course, those Levis are Jewish.)
Anti-Semitic ramblings of a reverse Renaissance man? Not even according to the ADL, which, while far from giving the movie its imprimatur, has conceded its comedy -- ruthful but riotous -- of the no harm, no ... fowl ... variety.
Ah, the chicken dance -- one of the funniest scenes in the film, when Borat invades a New York subway and his pet poultry falls out of his suitcase, scrambling throughout the car.
Even seen-it-all New Yorkers took notice. Egg on his face? Not Borat, the ultimate undesirable and un-insultable immigrant who makes other illegals worthy of a Visa card.
"One year ago," he tells the audience in this unscripted, unplanned gorilla-style film -- gorilla? How else to describe Borat's baboonish swing into America culture? -- "Kazakh Ministry of Information send me to US and A to make reportings that would help Kazakhstan.
"We want to be like you. America have most beautiful womens in world -- for example, Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor. It also center for democracy and porno.
Unlike any other film you'll see -- unless you possibly go to Kazakhstan for its annual "Kazakhstan's Most Wanted" film festival. "Borat" is comic quiche -- or whatever it is he eats so disgustingly.
It's all like a home movie made by Uncle Saul deprived of his Prozac; a perverted "Candid Camera" if Allen Funt had funneled defamations to his audiences.
But with all the barbaric biases and defamation digs in de film ... ultimately, is it good for the Jews?
Certainly is for one of them: Cohen, whose acting ability stole the film in summer's race-car comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."
Talk about racing: Maybe that film was just a prelim to start his engine for Borat's race. When the film opens back home in the village of Kuczek (Bucharest serving as a Kazakhstan stand-in), Borat is seen reporting on the Running of the Jew.
There's always room for Jew-low blows: Later, in America, when staying at an inn run by Jews, Borat has a hostile hostelry encounter: Cockroaches crawl under his door and he thinks -- holy Kafka! -- they're the owners metamorphized into their rightful status.
Time to raid the Raid? No, time to cash in as he throws money at the "Jews" bugging him, hoping they'll crawl away.
Does Mel Gibson make your skin crawl? Then crawl under the covers to hide from Cohen's undercover reporter, who reported this recently: "I would like to meet the fearless anti-Jew warrior, Melvin Gibson.
"We agree with his comments that the Jews started all wars. We also have proof that they were responsible for killing off all the dinosaurs. And Hurricane Katrina -- they did it."
And while he's at it, why not throw in the Madonna adoption? Wasn't it all just a guise to make Africa new headquarters for the kabbalah movement? Get them right now, red-hot -- red strings from the Sudan!
The movie's humor is at times more sophomoric than savage, especially in an intense impromptu battle between Borat and his producer, Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian), a bagetelle surrounding his diamond-in-the-rough reporter as they wrestle in as anal retentive a scene as exists in moviedom.
It's all done Sacha Baron Cohen style, first class -- or first crass?
Brags Borat: "We fly Kazakh Airways. Azamat go in hold, with luggage, animals and Jews."
Some serious baggage here coming from this onetime country crooner whose "Throw the Jews Down the Well" was shown going down well with an audience at a country western bar, as seen on "Da Ali G Show" on HBO.
But, as Borat might bitch, it's not like he forced that crowd to join in crowing about the benefits of killing Jews.
In "Borat," the movie, he makes a killing out of biting biased humor, revealing innate prejudices that could drive even Mel Gibson to drink. What's to be taken seriously, however, is Cohen himself, whose dissertation as a student at Cambridge University was on "A Case of Mistaking Identities -- the Jewish Black Alliance," an amazing treatise and treat that has become de rigeur reading for Cambridge history majors.
As for Cohen's other characters leaving viewers quaking, England's Commission for Racial Equality has cited "Da Ali G Show" as a showpiece for the benefits of racial tolerance.
He Spells It All Out
And while Ali G has added a curve or two to body language -- Ali G's "mingin," his street talk for sour punim, has been added to the hallowed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary -- there is really no word to describe how far Cohen's Borat can go.
No doubt, however, he -- as well as other Cohen characters -- have earned something from other comedians: Respek.
And this bad boy of comics, son of an Israeli mother and Welsh father and scion of a famous English fashion house (which, obviously, tacky, tawdry Borat has different designs on), can look back on a humble stage in his life when he was introduced to theater: Starring in Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" while a member of the Habonim Jewish Youth Group.
Kibbutznik as kidder? At 18, he served Rosh Hanikkra Kibbutz in Israel, where he visited trying to learn more about his mother's roots. Certainly, that's quite some distance from Kazakhstan. But the travel has been picturesque for the picaresque performer.
Indeed, even Kazakhstan officials, who once spurned "Borat" and decreed it the worst thing since Jews were allowed to propagate, have had a change of heart, or whatever it is that pulses inside their prejudiced chests:
"I'd like to invite Cohen here," Rakhat Aliyev, deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan, told Kazakhstan Today.
"He can discover a lot of things. Women drive cars, wine is made of grapes, and Jews are free to go to synagogue."
And mohels are allowed no-charge target practice?
Not that Borat himself doesn't understand the geopolitical germane implications of this immersion in Western life. After all, he may be the quintessential high-wire act to ever net such international trouble and intrigue:
"I hope you Americans see my movie, but please be warn that since it contain foul cursings, needless violence and a close-up of a man's bishkek, it have been given most strict certificate in Kazakhstan, meaning no one under age of 3 will be able to see it.
"Also, this film have been very controversial in my country because of amount of anti-Semitisms in it. However, eventually our censor decide there was enough and allow its release."