Borat new ‘king of Hollywood’

The hottest male star in Hollywood at the moment is none other than the identity-morphing British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

Who? You might know Cohen better as Borat Sagdiyev, the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and perpetually randy TV reporter from Kazakhstan.

He posed for Entertainment Weekly dressed as all the members of the Village People and arrived at the London premiere of his film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan in an ox cart pulled by bullishly strong women in peasant garb.

The film has made the Cambridge-educated Cohen public enemy number one in Kazakhstan, which is depicted in the edgy spoof as the most primitive place on earth.

The movie opens with Borat taking viewers on a tour of his home village as he sets off to the “U S and A” to make a documentary for
Kazakh TV. There’s a cow living inside his house, a prostitute sister with whom he enjoys an incestuous farewell grope and Boris “the village mechanic and abortionist”.

That part of the movie is scripted. But once in America, Cohen unleashes Borat and his provocative ways on unsuspecting Americans, always staying in character as hilarity and idiocy unfold.

He begins by opening a suitcase full of chickens on a New York subway and praises “George Walter Bush” and his “war of terror” at a rodeo. He brings a black hooker as his guest to a posh southern dinner party, and has an argument with his producer that ends with them wrestling naked through their hotel and a convention of insurance salesmen.

Together the gags form a savagely funny road trip movie as Borat makes his way across the country to meet Pamela Anderson and hopefully snare her in his traditional Kazakh “wedding sack”.

Rarely in recent years has a comedy premiered to such enthusiastic reviews in the US — though that is never a guarantee of box office success. Still, from high-brow to low, Borat’s ability to blend slapstick with razor-sharp social satire could launch a huge hit.

“The audience with whom I saw the movie wasn’t laughing so much as howling,” noted a reviewer in the intellectually rigorous Village Voice. “Borat makes you laugh but Baron Cohen forces you to think.”

Film industry bible Variety called it an “uproariously funny mockumentary”, while rival The Hollywood Reporter was just as effusive.

Universal Studios won a bidding war last month, paying more than
$US42 million ($A54 million) for the distribution rights to the next Cohen film, in which he will star as another of his alter-egos, gay fashionista Bruno.

Khazakstan ‘not amused’

You can understand the concern in the Kazakh capital Astana at being mocked in what may turn out to be the biggest hit of the year.

But really, everyone can see that the joke is not on the glorious nation of Kazakhstan but rather on the world’s great superpower and its strange ways.

“The giant moustache, the mesh underwear, the car dragged by mules, the wine made of fermented horse urine – sure, it seems as if comedian Sacha Baron Cohen is mocking Kazakhstan,” Time magazine humourist Joel Stein explained to his American readers. “He is not. He’s mocking you.”

Borat opens in Australia on November 23.