Later than most, we finally watched the Borat film over the weekend. Our expectations were mixed, no doubt. On the one hand, we expected a lot of puerile humor and exploitation of naive subjects (but were mostly unworried about any possible sullying of the reputation of Kazakhstan). On the other hand, we were primed by a variety of media accounts presenting the oft-disguised Mr Cohen as a guerrilla comic who exposes the dark side of American life by appearing to be foolish enough to share the prejudices of his interlocutors. At the same time, saddled by disappointing experience, we arrived with the awareness that efforts to inflate characters developed for sketch comedy to the scale of the large screen usually fail.
The end result, comparing the actual viewing experience to our expectations, is that the film has a little of all that and not enough of any of it. What is disgusting is often amusing, if you like that sort of thing, but not overwhelmingly or hilariously so. What is exploitative is apparent, but not mean enough that anybody seeing it would actually care. As for the biting political satire, well, Borat unearths the surprising fact that racism exists, but there is nothing there that anybody did not already know. He has a couple of interviews with minor ex-politicians, but uses only a few seconds of footage from each; these interviews must not have gone well. In sum, what comes across on film is a bit smarter than, say, Candid Camera, but neither as revealing nor as feeling as Tito po drugi put među Srbima. There are a few moments that stand out from the howling pack of moments: most of these involve people indulging Borat for reasons unknown, but the rapidly shifting response of a rodeo audience to his rants is truly scary, and a group of drunken fratboys is distressingly recognizable.
We left the screening thinking of ways in which somebody with a similar idea might produce a truly impressive film. It would probably not be a popular hit, then. If the producers made a "making-of" documentary parallel with the film, though, that might be really fascinating. As it turned out, I walked into the theatre thinking I would disagree with Darko, but walked out agreeing.