Brüno (Larry Charles, 2009)

“Ich was going to become famous by solving a world problem! But which one?”

Sarah loves Borat. Not literally – because that may make our relationship a little awkward, but she actually cries with laughter when watching that film. So, as a portion of her birthday treat this year, I managed to get two tickets to see [the 18 rated version of] Bruno at the Barbican. Another part of her present was membership for the Barbican – it really seems to be a worthy investement because it has every type of art form you can imagine but, crushingly, over the summer there is no theatre on. Gutting for a Drama teacher, such as Sarah is. Nevertheless, it has a cinema, a music hall and absolutely tons of Art space – and now she gets discounts and information on the forthcoming shows! Nevertheless, I was tentative about watching Bruno because you knew it would be no plain sailing – he would have to try and ‘top’ Borat and, possibly, to please the masses, he may just go that little bit too far. Interestingly, as mentioned in ‘Sight and Sounds’ review this month, Bruno got more column inches in the press than expected – and I am sure it was more that Borat. All that racism and sexism, etc in Borat seemed to pale in comparison to Bruno’s overt sexual and shallow attitude to life and others. I’m getting ahead of myself …

What I reckon …

To get a sense of context – with regard to story (not Cohen’s strongest point, but then again Ali G Inda House and Borat were not trying to be Shakespeare), we meet Austrian fashion guru Bruno (Cohen) who manages to lose his job in Austria on TV programme ‘Funkyzeit’ and so decides to ‘be famous’. Pretty loose context, but then again it manages to squeeze into the procedings pranks onto the American public. All very Borat and, to some extent it realy is a carbon copy, except that we have Bruno in his place. Though clueless – he is from the Western world and does know the culture of society so his lack of awareness seems a little unfounded, while Borat had an air of innocence about him – he didn’t have great social skills in America so many jokes that could easily have been on him, turned out to be more on the people attempting to ‘westernize’ him because they didn’t know what to do. What do you do when a Kazahk reporter brings a prostitute to your house? All you can do is call it a night. While when an incredibly camp man asks you at a swingers party to show positions you shag in … its that little bit more sinister. He knows what he is doing, chances are you would know what he is doing – but you trust him so you run with it. But alas, your trust is what is abused.

Bruno’s hunt for fame is so shallow in itself – and the obvious quest Borat had to learn the culture of America – again, was more moral. I feel that this was the biggest problem. The set-ups worked: an African child delivered to an airport in a box and the reactions of the others is so side-splittingly funny. His overt sexuality is great – but his purpose seemed so weak. I felt the whole thing took a turn for the best when he decided that he had to ‘become straight’ – and the attitude of others to someone they knew was gay but didn’t say it (the ‘shooters’ – Donny, Mike and the other one – ignoring him at the campfire…), the gay-convertor pastor (who recommends he doesn’t listen to ‘The Village People’ and takes part in masculine activities such as shooting) – these things highlighted prejudices and lack of understanding and, thus, the serious edge side-by-side with the very obscure Americans he met, made for great viewing.

The finale of the film shows Bruno, now rebranded as ‘Straight Dave’ present a cage-fighting match. This includes ripping girls clothes off – he is that straight! This then changes to a highly-gay viewing as both Bruno and his longtime lover make-out in the middle of the cage while the entire audience flips out. This was truly fascinating. To see how aggressive and violent these folks were about something that, personally, is not such a big deal, really highlighted how little I know about societies within the Western world that are still stuck in the stone ages with their non-liberal views. This finale is the only point that tops Borat as it manages to really go for the jugular with the comedy and serious-note it is trying to make. The Americans truly show their colours and it’s funny (who is like that?) and then, when you think about it, so upsetting (imagine one of those Americans with a son/daughter who is gay… it would be difficult to come out in that family). Borat never created those emotions – merely climaxing with the Pamela Anderson debaucle.

Nevertheless, it is still a comedy and – serious-points aside – the sequence showing Bruno and his pygmy boyfriend with their range of sexual toys (E.g. Dildo attached to a cycle-machine, elasticated chair, etc) is fascinating and – again, akin to Borat – I think the use of the censor covering up the obscene actions helps the comedy! Reminds me of Starship Troopers when they ram that machine into the anus-like creature. We also manage to watch Bruno’s celebrity show whereby we watch some penis-flapping (that won’t make the 15-cut) and the celebrity ‘status’ of Jamie Lynn-Spears unborn baby: a ‘Z-lister’ apparently. Pushing the button when Bruno asks his ‘celebrity-insider’ whether Spears should ‘abort or keep’ the baby as if it is a prize.

I personally found this less offensive than Borat but then it managed to make a more serious point. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy Borat but I shall explain the problem with his influence on the kids on the Borat review. While Bruno, I doubt will be copied by the kids and yet also manages to make a serious point about the homophobic attitude many people still have.

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