by NIR SHALEV
In 2006, actor Sacha Baron Cohen disguised himself as Borat Sagdiyev, a man from Kazakhstan who flew to America to document his travels and his discoveries about cultural differences and the underlying theme of intolerance. Critically, the film struck a great chord and audiences worldwide laughed themselves silly. The film observed that the average human being is afraid of what he does not understand.
Bruno is a whole other specie. A self-proclaimed Fashionista, Bruno is an Austrian who fouled-up a runway show by designing a Velcro suit and sticking to every curtain in the backstage area. He is blacklisted in his country and decides to fly to the U.S. in order to become famous; in fact, the “most famous gay Austrian since Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Bruno seems crass but it comes with the territory; he has been surrounded by the fashion industry all of his life, believes that he’s still 19 years old, has a perfect body.
In the U.S., he tries to interview celebrities and fouls that up too when interviewing Paula Abdul and using Mexican gardeners as makeshift furniture. He tries making a sex tape with a politician, adopts an African baby while detouring through Africa and then showcases him on a daytime talk show with an all Black audience, and even asks a known Muslin terrorist to kidnap him so that his face would be plastered on international television. Bruno eventually decides that the reason he does not become famous in the U.S. is because he’s a homosexual.
The second act of the film showcases Bruno learning karate, hunting with armed rednecks, and joining the army.
If while watching this film you feel that what you’re seeing is wrong in a moral sense, you’re not entirely off track. But then again, even though Cohen’s intentions are to shock he has concocted a rather ingenious comedy.
Though it may seem that the film is staged, the reasons behind that are technical: when constructing a situation, Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles position the camera to collect reaction shots of people who are unaware of Cohen’s intentions. After collecting the footage, the final product is edited to seem like a hybrid between Reality TV and a traditional film.
I found myself laughing hysterically throughout the film even though I was repulsed, and sometimes disgusted watching it; there aren’t 10 seconds in the film that are boring. This type of comedic filmmaking pokes fun at our contemporary society and the extreme gestures that many citizens would perform just to be famous for a little while; everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. Bruno at one point auditions babies for a photo shoot and asks the parents questions like, “Is your daughter afraid of bees, wasps, or hornets,” “Does your son like lit phosphorus,” and “Can your daughter lose 10 pounds in the next 7 days and if not, are you willing to apply liposuction to make it happen?” We laugh at the questions that Bruno asks but we are in awe at the parents’ answers.
What Cohen is doing to a certain degree is wrong but as we watch the results through tear-filled eyes we understand why he’s done what he’s done.
Unlike Borat, this is not a film to take your parents to see. There is full frontal male nudity and homosexual jokes that may or may not offend others. What I found interesting about this film is that overall the protagonist doesn’t have to be a homosexual; he could be straight and still receive the same treatment. But then again, watching him wander through a swingers party, pretending to be straight and only paying attention to the men at the party was quite hilarious.
3 1/2 stars