Friday, July 10, 2009
Hung like a horse: Sasha Baron Cohen as gay
Austrian fashionista Brüno, in Larry Charles's film of the same name.
(Photo: Universal Pictures)
Ja! Mein Ist Das Über Weiß Trashiest
Spectakal In Da Überverse?!?!
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, July 10, 2009
Sasha Baron Cohen has fast become an unruly though
welcome presence (at least in some quarters) on the Hollywood stage, pushing the
buttons of American audiences just a little harder than his predecessors, and
with Larry Charles's new film "Brüno", which crash-landed today across the U.S.
and Canada, this enfant terrible refuses to put his toys away when told to do
Instead, he hurls them at you.
Some of the toys have been put in the naughtiest and nastiest places.
(Places where the sun "don't" shine.)
Those last few lines crystallize "Brüno", the mockumentary film about the
self-titled gay Austrian fashion diva created and portrayed by Mr. Cohen.
Brüno has fast exhausted existence in the realm of Vogue etc. and decides to
jet-set to the U.S., specifically Los Angeles, to achieve fame and fortune with
a television show he's working on getting aired throughout the nation. He
is trying too hard to be famous, mimicking Madonna and the procession of
high-profile white celebrities adopting black babies and the media's endless
glorification of such as some kind of cabbage patch kids sensation or trend.
Brüno targets Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kevin Spacey in his quest to become
an A-list Hollywood sensation and he does so in myriad amusing ways, none of
which will be to the liking of the three actors. Brüno does a lot of other
things in between. Brüno declares his undying sexual desire for black men
in particular, and he emblazons this on the big screen within the film's first
30 seconds or so, as well as with more symbolically offensive motifs later.
If that's not enough, the audience has barely sat for a minute before the
declaration "herpes free" in large print, appears on the screen.
This tasteless spectacle is just the tip of the iceberg with "Brüno", and
remarkably this salacious and cheeky satire executes wonderfully while offending
the hell out of everybody and every group you can think of. There's no
safe haven for blacks, whites, Mexicans, Asians, Jewish people, Palestinians,
people of faith, men, women, straights or gays -- although at the risk of great
ignorance and worse stereotyping I would imagine that some gay people may enjoy
this film a little more than other people might. That prediction is made
definitely not because of the abundant display of penises or simulated (and
otherwise) anal sex acts, for that assumption would be far too cruel, bigoted,
ignorant and narrow (forgive the pun.) Some of the gay (and straight)
community will enjoy "Brüno" precisely because the title character's leverage at
confronting the straight population with its own homophobia and ignorance is
astounding, astute, intelligent and dead-on target. This, plus Mr. Cohen's
intentionally sloppy but sharp satirical strengths and instincts are the very
reasons that "Brüno" -- an often hilarious, laugh-out loud marathon of glam,
disgusting and glorious -- works, and works well at that. (With "Dance
Flick" there was little satirical strength or bite; here, there's plenty of wild
moments to chew on.)
The structure of Mr. Cohen's latest closely resembles his own creation
the film the "Brüno" advertisements declare "was so 2006". Of course, that
was the year "Borat" was released. Like that film, this new one features a
man from a country overseas who flies to America to examine and poke a lot of
fun at it with the most drop-dead and shockingly offensive satirical episodes
and devices possible. Like "Borat", which was also directed by Mr. Charles
-- he helmed last year's Bill Maher documentary
"Religulous" -- in "Brüno" there's a trusty male sidekick to wrestle
with. The set pieces here are remarkably similar and equally simple.
In many respects however, "Borat" as a film and a character was very tame though
sharper because the character was a bumbling ignoramus. Brüno as a
character is bumbling and more sophisticated but plays dumb, yet his physical
energies as channeled by the talented Mr. Cohen know no boundaries.
Whether he's in Ali G mode (his HBO television character) confronting
politicians in hotel rooms -- a variation on the U.S. senator Larry Craig's
infamous airport bathroom behavior in 2008 -- or whooping it up in a couple of
scenes which no film reviewer should give away, Mr. Cohen both exhausts and
shatters the lines of incorrectness. He knows how to make some of his
quarry even more incorrect than he is at times, and this too is his genius.
He out-Springers Jerry Springer and he is as adept as
Michael Moore at a certain
choreography to his documentaries, building priceless moments whether authentic
"Brüno", like its so 2006 predecessor, is adept at keeping the viewer off
balance, prodding and provoking thought and reaction from its audience, which
will again wonder what is real and what isn't. One celebrity is seen
telling Brüno to "fuck off" -- it's pretty certain that this particular moment
is real, and there are other moments in the film, including those right before
and during the end credits, that are clearly orchestrated. There are
entire gray areas as well. In this regard, "Brüno" is best seen in a
packed movie theater because much of its charm and achievement is acquired via
its discomfort level in the audience, whose dilemma about when to laugh and not
laugh in mixed company will be severely tested. While watching "Brüno" you
really want to laugh at it and at Brüno himself, but you almost always end up
laughing with it and him. Seeing the film alone or in like-minded
company will be dull by comparison, but the cameo appearances in the film are
not. The film chokes on its own provocative fumes in some moments and is
dotted with emptiness. Here's one line that will be received by the
character Brüno in mixed fashion: "Brüno" may taste great at times, but it is
less filling overall.
"Brüno" is more BBC-type humor than classic American satire, and will be right
at home with the British public, whose own late legend Benny Hill showed the way
for decades. While "Brüno" may be tame stuff for the Brits, one has to
wonder why the Motion Picture Association of America and the "Brüno" filmmakers
didn't just go the extra mile. The film is an undoubtedly appropriate "R"
rating, but had a few black rectangles been removed from several scenes it would
(and should) have been an NC-17. Why not go all the way?
After all, Mr. Cohen takes Brüno as a character all the way. Perhaps Mr.
Cohen, a Brit who wrote the film with Mr. Charles among others, was concerned
that some of the sex acts would overshadow the satire -- which is what Roger
Ebert declared was the problem with
"Bamboozled", Spike Lee's brilliant and biting satire on racism in
the American television and movie industry. "Brüno" had already received
advance hype and interest, and it would have been difficult to believe that an
NC-17 rating would have inhibited audiences from seeing it at the local
One last thing: Mr. Cohen (who also had a small but effective role in
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street" in 2007) can
attribute some of his outrageous sketches to the vintage 1980s Eddie Murphy
incarnations on a then-funny "Saturday Night Live". Mr. Murphy's
television characters were indelible, incisive, smart, offensive and riotous.
Mr. Cohen is also influenced by Dave Chappelle, whose own comedic genius is the
stuff of legend. You'd think that Mr. Chappelle would have done a
feature-length film edition of his own (now disowned) Comedy Central cable
I can hear Brüno right now, saying: "Wass up! Doze zwei ur schwartzen guys,
I can hear myself saying that "Brüno" is the most outrageously offensive
orchestration of the year -- so very 2009.
"Brüno" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for pervasive
strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity and language. In German,
English and various other languages, with English subtitles. The film's
running time is one hour and 23 minutes.
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