Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Borat and Bazza

Borat, has plenty of historical precedents. Australians especially have long embraced the notion of the innocent abroad to poke fun at pomposity, stupidity and alleged general incomprehension of other cultures. Sacha Baron Cohen’s best trick is to take the elements and be really outrageous, most notably in the casual anti-semitism and anti-Romany poses he adopts. But we have precedents for that as well, most particularly in the comic strip version of Barry McKenzie when it appeared in Private Eye. The film version severely toned down the anti-semitic element of the McKenzie character. Sacha Baron Cohen’s trick also rather resembles that of Garry McDonald’s with his Norman Gunston character who ran rampant in the 70s. Gunston’s best moments were ambushes, no more so than his attendance at Warren Beatty’s press conference when he arrived at Sydney Airport to promote Shampoo. “Have you made it with any Australian chicks yet, Mr Beatty?” Gunston politely enquired. Beatty turns to see who has asked this question and spots a buffoon in a lame jacket with pieces of cigarette paper stuck to his face to cover his shaving cuts. “Who are you?” says the great man. “Norman Gunston, ABC Tonight Show”. “You….have a Tonight Show? At least that’s the way I remember it. Barry McKenzie was, in Philip Adams words, a little nature study of what a naïf found when he arrived in Britain. Not a pretty picture and the world has hardly moved on far. Barry was confronted by feminists, Borat confronts them even more directly. Borat also skewers politicians and really makes them squirm. I’d love to know just how much the speech about supporting Bush’s war on terror was set up and staged and how much the actor managed to wring from the crowd. Borat is good simple fun. You cant but help admire the sang-froid of an actor/creator attempting such a confrontation and bringing it off so successfully.

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