Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Review: Bruno, dir Larry Charles (2009)

It’s not every day you watch a film that is designed to cause the same level of distaste as a handful of fingernails scraped violently down a dusty blackboard.

English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has written a devilish screenplay that aims to reveal the intolerance that underlies many parts of contemporary society.

He’s chosen America, but you feel that Cohen’s hijinks would generate the same type of fury anywhere he managed to drag his extensive, rathouse-shiny wardrobe.

Where to start? Perhaps the best place to start is at the end of this happy-making movie. Because in the end, Bruno achieves what he sets out to achieve: global fame.

It’s the crunchy bits in the middle that are so hard to consume.

At the start, we’re already in the thick of it. Wearing a suit made entirely out of Velcro, Bruno throws himself into covering a fashion show. An established figure in the Austrian fashion scene (the script says), our intrepid reporter is ejected from the gala event having destroyed half of the backstage. Blacklisted, he vows to try out his talents in the world’s biggest market: America.

In California, Bruno approaches a talent agent who schedules him in as an extra in a courtroom drama. Over-eager to achieve fame fast, Bruno’s shenanigans ensure that he is soon ejected from the set. Undaunted, he sets about making a celebrity show featuring himself as the compere. The audience pilot session is an unmitigated disaster, but Bruno picks up a valuable tip from one of the sample group. He decides to make a porn film.

With a real-life personality – an ex-Presidential candidate – Bruno sequesters himself in a bedroom with the unfortunate man who ends up storming out in disgust.

What next for Bruno? Middle East peace? Yeah! So off he flies, securing an interview with a representative of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who throws him out as the group refuses to kidnap this whacko foreign running dog.

Undaunted, Bruno travels to Africa and finds a black child to adopt. Back in California, he sets up a photo shoot and manages to outrage the audience of a trailer-park chat show. Stretching the possibilities of umbrage to their ultimate end, a child protection officer takes the kid into care.

Apparently dejected, Bruno overdoses on sweets and other sticky carbohydrates at a Texas diner. Sunk in the depths of despair at seeing his precious infant taken by the dead hand of the state, Bruno has a fling with his assistant’s assistant, Lutz - the only one among his former confederates who cared to accompany the rising 19-year-old superstar across the Atlantic. In the morning, they are startled to find themselves, in the hotel room, chained together by a rattling agglomeration of sex aids.

Bruno calls the desk but the hotel staffer who comes to his aid is so outraged by the sight of the kinky paraphernalia he finds in the room that the pair is summarily ejected – still bound together – into the street, where an anti-Gay rally is taking place.

They stagger onto a bus until a passing police officer discovers them, naked except for a few strategically-placed items, on the floor of the bus. They’re taken into custody and released the next morning, whereupon they argue and Lutz leaves his naked idol outside the remand centre.

Bruno decides to turn over a new leaf and tries to find help in the form of a counsellor who promises to convert the high-achieving aesthete away from his erroneous lifestyle. Anything for fame – even heterosexuality, says the shiny-eyed Bruno. We’re in Alabama, but the man’s advice leads Bruno to seek macho companions in a number of locales, including the US Army, among a group of hard-nosed Southern hunters, and at a swinger’s party.

Repulsed by the men at the party, Bruno’s jacket is firmly grasped by a buxom lass on the stairs who unceremoniously marches him down into a bedroom, where she proceeds to whip him to make him remove his clothes. “Get down on your knees and suck my spike,” orders the over-busty Amazon. Bruno manages to make his escape out the window, scuttling into the darkness dressed only in a skimpy pair of underpants.

Eight months later, and still consumed by the desire for instant fame, Bruno finds himself in a fighting ring. Beyond the mesh fence surrounding the ring hundreds of die-hard rednecks boo and halloo, spoiling for blood. Interrupting Bruno’s macho palaver, Lutz descends from the bleachers and enters the ring. They fight. Tasting blood, Lutz and Bruno tear each others’ clothes off in a lustful frenzy as the incredulous spectators bay and howl at this sickening betrayal of a sacred social more.

It’s just one cringe worthy scene in a film that has rewritten the book when it comes to making enemies. In some parts of society, people like Bruno just ain’t welcome.

Be scared. Be very scared.

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