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“Borat” Premiers At Smith Opera House

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” the Golden Globe winner for best actor in a comedy and Academy Award nominee for Best original Screenplay, will screen at 7 p.m. February 3, 5, and 6, and at 2 p.m. on February 4 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca Street.Not for the faint of heart, this comedy brings to the big screen Borat, an outrageous, gray-suited mustachioed television reporter from Kazakhstan. Created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for his HBO television series “Da Ali G Show,” Borat cheerfully and quite inadvertently portrays his country as a backward, anti-Semitic tribal society — “My sister is the number-four prostitute in all of country,” he proudly informs us — while parodying our own ignorance and prejudices. In “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” Borat sets out on a road trip through the heartland of America to explore its cultural mores and produce a documentary of his findings. Along the way, he presents a variety of offensive portraits of feminists, Jews, blacks, gays, rednecks and white Christians.The belly laughs begin with the prologue, a rampantly politically incorrect introduction to the peasant village Borat calls home. There, inbreeding is rife, women are chattel and entertainment comes in the form of poking fun at the disabled or celebrating the ritual “running of the Jews.”Soon Borat is setting off for what he persists in calling “the U.S. and A.,” with producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) in tow.Appropriately enough, his first subject is a New York humor consultant, who patiently explains that retardation and race are not considered appropriate subjects for comedy. Instead, he coaches him in the art of “not” jokes. It’s some mark of Baron Cohen’s delicious improvisational skills that he makes even this most irritating of comedy tropes funny, though — typically — it sails over the head of the exasperated expert.But what Borat really wants is to hook up with Pamela Anderson, and it’s when he leaves the East Coast on a transcontinental road trip that the trip really gets interesting. American movies have been testing taboos around bad taste with some vigor over the last decade, but “Borat” takes bad manners to the level of an art form.At a dinner with a party of hospitable Southern Christians (who live on Secession Drive), the disarming outsider “innocently” makes ever-greater demands on their forbearance. The scene is a tour-de-force of social discomfort, and it’s only when Borat invites a black hooker into the house that his hosts finally draw the line and throw both of them out.A later scene with a group of frat boys ends with them lamenting the demise of slavery.At the Imperial rodeo in Virginia, he elicits anti-Islamic and homophobic comments from the rodeo manager. Then he stands up in front of the entire crowd and delivers a rousing speech pledging support for “Premier” Bush’s “the war of terror.”The crowd keeps right on whooping as Borat describes the righteous slaughter that will descend on Arab women and children in increasingly bloodthirsty detail. Their cheers only die out when he massacres “The Star-Spangled Banner” by substituting the lyrics of (allegedly) the Kazakh national anthem. It’s an extraordinarily brave performance — so startling that one of the attendant flag-bearers is nearly thrown from his horse.When Borat pays a visit to a gun store in the South, he asks the man behind the counter what kind of weapon he would recommend for shooting Jews. Without hesitating, the salesman suggests a Glock automatic. The movie is full of such jaw-dropping moments, which are transformed into the blackest satire precisely because they are so unguarded and so incredibly offensive.Some have accused Baron Cohen, who is Jewish, of anti-Semitism. He chronicles his Kazakh village’s annual “Running of the Jew” and quakes in fear of a sweet Midwestern couple who run a B&B, whispering to the camera: “I am in a nest of Jews.” But clearly he’s mocking bigotry, not endorsing it.All of this, in the hands of a lesser comedian, might be both patronizing and smug, but Baron Cohen satirizes himself in the process. What he does so brilliantly is send up the outsider as the ugly tourist abroad. Borat is a cultural grenade lobbed on customs and attitudes without his realizing that he’s insulting everyone in sight. Cohen’s Borat is essentially a naif, an engaging boob, who thinks he knows everything but in reality understands nothing. Director Larry Charles (“Seinfeld”) structures the picture as a mock documentary featuring a series of encounters Borat has with typical Americans. Suggesting some of the maniacal skill of Peter Sellers, Baron Cohen so deeply inhabits the character of Borat that all traces of the actor disappear.Some will no doubt be disgusted by over-the-top cringe-inducing segments: an extended nude chase and wrestling scene between Baron Cohen and Davitian is unlike anything seen in mainstream movies. “Borat” is — to name just a few of its innovations — the first Hollywood comedy to list among its credits a “Naked Fight Coordinator” and a “Kidnapping Consultant.” Or need to.Like Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” Baron Cohen’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” is a comedy whose lengthy title is difficult to remember, and whose incendiary humor is impossible to forget. “Borat” is an equal opportunity offender that doesn’t insult your intelligence.With a running time of one hour, 22 minutes, this shockingly hilarious satire that knows no bounds is rated R. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens.Call 315-781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 866-355-LIVE (5483) for details or to order tickets. Tickets may also be purchased on-line at www.TheSmith.org.

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