It was odd but enticing. A few days ago, I received an email from someone I did not know, reading: “We wanna invite you to a surprise screening in Cannes… we’ll send you more information in a few days.” I asked what it was, when it was, and never found out. Until early Tuesday, when it was announced that Fox Searchlight would host a special word-of-mouth screening for the anticipated comedy, Borat, an adaptation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s popular HBO character from his Ali G. Show.
So, on Tuesday night, an audience of industry folks and students from the American Pavilion, gathered together to watch this “work-in-progress.” The film we saw seemed fairly complete, and I hope that it is, because it was damn near perfect. Funny, offensive, and timely, Borat could become the kind of college-campus classic that speaks to the tasteless teenager in us all. I won’t spoil much of the details – and there are plenty of hilarious details – but the premise revolves around Kazakhstani TV personality Borat assigned with a producer and cameraman to visit New York City and document American culture for his “developing nation” audience back home. He meets with and interviews unassuming real people, like a humor coach and a feminists’ group, who are unaware they are being played for laughs by a British comedian’s alter ego.
While in New York, some late-night channel surfing has Borat stumble upon an episode of Baywatch. He becomes infatuated with Pamela Anderson and decides that he must take his TV project to Los Angeles so that they can be united. Switching gears, he and his team purchase an ice cream truck and drive it cross-country. Along the way, they continue to document the clueless Americans they encounter, including a frustrated driving instructor, a Southern etiquette coach, some drunken frat boys, Evangelical churchgoers, and much more. Believe it or not, this sketch-turned-feature actually sustains itself, as Cohen and director Larry Charles blend in real interview moments with scripted scenes involving Borat and his crew. Plus, the Pamela Anderson storyline gives a thread for all these seemingly random events. Look out for the film this Fall, when Borat comes to America. I can’t wait to see it again.