Borat clung to No. 1 again this past weekend, no doubt bouyed by countless favorable reviews, exceedingly positive word-of-mouth and Steve Lowery's article on the climactic scenes filmed at the Block at Orange. Steve's story surmises that because mall security spilled the beans to him about what they knew beforehand about the Block scenes with an abused Pam Anderson, the ultimate joke of the film may have been that the gasp-inducing finale was the lone set-up piece.
But there is ample evidence that Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan was simply a series of elaborate set ups. That's not to say some of what happened didn't really happen—especially the priceless racism you'd have to hire a Minuteman to make sound so authentic. But how these slackjaws became unwitting movie stars was no doubt less, um, witting than it appears in the film. Take the fact that there is a never acknowledged camera crew filming the whole thing, that the crew always knows exactly when and where to point the camera despite events supposedly unfolding randomly, and that the camera miraculously cuts through walls, time and space to get shots of subjects as they leave one place and instantaneously arrive at another.
At a dinner where Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat abuses female dinner guests, he leaves the table and the camera lingers on the guests and their conversations about his faux culture. Choosing to wait until their befuddled guest is out of earshot, would they not also notice a camera crew still in the room? How does the camera get from that dinner table to a bedroom where Borat is simultaneously calling a female escort? And, after Borat and his big-bottomed “date” are bounced out of the house, how does the camera suddenly go from framing them in the entryway to the commotion of them apparently being chased out of the home while threats of police calls fly to an immediate steady shot (set up on the lawn) of the shunned guests coming out the door, from the opposite direction? One guy with a camera and another holding sound equipment probably could have got all these shots—NOT! (Sorry … that was the film talking.) That is, they could have if they were given time to break down and set up or, more plausible if this was indeed a surprising development, if they had a second crew on the lawn. The credits do list two cinematographers.
There is also at least one brewing lawsuit shedding light on how Cohen's crew captured the worst in Ugly Americanism. Anonymous plaintiffs John Doe No. 1 and John Doe No. 2 are suing 20th Century Fox and One America Productions for unspecified damages, claiming members of their college fraternity interviewed by Borat were singled out at a pub, plied with drinks to “loosen up” and that they signed releases for a film they were told would not be shown in the U.S. after rounds of heavy drinking. These would be the dumbfucks who in the movie pick up a dejected and hitchhiking Borat in their rolling party RV. The white lads go on to make racist comments along the same lines as all the repugnant things done and said by Red Staters the film characterizes as being, in their own way, every bit as backward as Borat's fictional Kazakhstan villagers. But the suit contends the filmmakers provided the RV and invited the frat boys into it—defying the reality presented on screen. (I must say that, while watching the film, I kept wondering who the hell was driving the thing. If the suit has merit, now we know who.)
The biggest clue that the whole film was set up is the identity of its director: Larry Charles, who went from a writer/producer on Seinfeld to directing some of the most brilliant episodes of Seinfeld pal Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show that itself was one big fake “reality” production and whose look closely resembles that of Borat—right down to the handheld cameras being in the perfect position to capture everything that happens.
Of course, a counter-argument to that reached conclusion would be another recent movie Charles directed and wrote, the Bob Dylan bomb Masked and Anonymous. Surely, something as un-funny as that could not have come out of the same mind that has Borat audiences doubled over.