Fashion Beast


Bruno with his “gayby,” O.J.

BRÜNO, directed by Larry Charles and starring Sacha Baron Cohen may be the first film with an umlaut in the title ever to play at my local multiplex. And even the Universal logo that opens the film has one — Üniversal — the kind of attention to detail and eagerness to get the laughs rolling right away, Tashlin-style, which is one of the film’s most endearing traits.

Fiona and I went with our friend David Wingrove, whom I regard as the Special Gayness Adviser on this one. We look to him to let us know if it’s OK to laugh. Interestingly, the film itself has a list of “advisers” including comedian Matt Lucas, in its end credits, suggesting that Cohen had the same thought: let’s get the experts’ advice. David said he couldn’t see any way anybody could find the film homophobic, so there.

“There are actually gay men like that,” he protested, and cited Andreas Kronthaler, the current Mr Vivienne Westwood, as proof that the character was not altogether beyond the bounds of reality. We discussed the way the film doesn’t much care where it gets its laughs from — some of the time we’re laughing because Brüno’s victims are bigots who deserve to be ridiculed, much of the time we’re laughing because Brüno himself is so appalling. An uncomfortable scene where he tries to seduce former presidential hopeful Ron Paul — Paul makes some obnoxious remarks, but it’s a little hard to blame him under the provocative circumstances — is redeemed by Brüno’s mournful voice-over admission, “I couldn’t even seduce Ru-Paul.”

We all laughed a very great deal, and as with BORAT, we weren’t left with that much movie at the end. This is something I’ve been feeling a lot about modern film comedies, whether of the Apatow school or Cohen’s stealth-action comedy insurgencies: the ability to cram in major laughs is quite remarkable; the ability to organise it into some kind of narrative and keep the momentum going is pretty good (and it’s mysterious how Cohen manages it in his apparently loosely-strung-together romps); the sense that you’ve actually seen a film is slightly lacking. The movies are worth paying to see on the big screen because the communal experience of laughing at an Austrian is a very rich one, but I’ve never felt the urge to re-watch BORAT and I don’t think I’ll re-watch BRÜNO. But that’s not really a criticism, it’s just the kind of beast it is.

UK buyers go here: Bruno [DVD] [2009]

US: Bruno

18 Responses to “Fashion Beast”

  1. I haven’t seen Brüno yet, but I did enjoy Borat. I was a fan of the BBC’s excellent comedy series “The Fast Show”

  2. Vivienne Westwood’s husband is gay? I’m flabbergasted.

  3. Nice pic:

  4. Beautiful!

    Actually, far be it from me to say Mr Westwood is gay. But he has been claimed by some as an inspiration for Bruno.

  5. I liked Borat but I found Bruno dull. The problem has to do with Chens’ smash-and-grab celebrity-guerilla baiting style. He’s done many segments on his TV show with Bruno, so few in the fashion world can be “punked” anymore. But that’s a shame. I would have hoped Cohen would have included a full-press Bruno fashion show — where he could torture real models byt fitting them into outlandish outfits.

    But on that level he’s already been bested by William Klein in is masterful Qui Etes-Vous Polly Magoo? back in 1966.

    Worse still Cohen hasn’t does his homework. For when he gets the insane (literally) Paul Cameron to sit down for a chat he doesn’t quote Cameron’s words back at him. Cameron is famous for having been drummed out of the American Psyhological Association for his crackpot anti-gay theories. What’s most amusing is Cameron’s belief that gay sex is more dangerous than straight sex because it’s more pleasurable.

    I’ve met Cohen and he’s a pleasant chape, but nothing he does here comes close to the delicious insanity of Scott Thompson’s “Buddy Cole” on Kids in the Hall

  6. I like his highland dress.

    Perhaps the difficulty with Bruno is he’s not really a device for exposing prejudice, since he’s programmed to go beyond the bounds of decency in any situation. So a genuine bigot starts off unreasonable but begins to look almost normal as Bruno’s behaviour becomes more inappropriate. Borat scored satirically when his marks joined in with misogynistic or anti-semitic remarks. Bruno doesn’t invite the approval of bigots AT ALL, so he only offers the satisfaction of seeing dupes get embarrassed.

    So, it’s less satirical. But I still laughed.

  7. Some genius put this up on YouTube – a recording of the information line for a smalltown Irish cinema, telling you everything you need to make an informed decision about whether or not to see Bruno…

  8. That. Is. BEAUTIFUL. They should put that on the poster: “Horrible. One or two people have enjoyed it though.”

  9. I like the way the cinema owner, before he says anything else about Bruno, calls it ‘vile’. Come down off the fence, hey?

  10. It’s certainly more evocative than “Contains mild peril.”

  11. Love the look on O.J.’s face. Priceless. Your statement at the end of the post, about there being no need to see his films a second time, I’ve yet to see BRUNO, but I did feel that way after seeing BORAT, once was plenty. I recall feeling the same way about another film, after seeing PINK FLAMINGOS back in the Seventies.

  12. In the case of Cohen’s movies it’s maybe because the plot is barely a thread… it’s sufficient to keep the film on track, but not very interesting to think about in its own right. Pink Flamingos is kind of similar, but its probably more genuinely scandalous.

  13. For as much as he pushes the envelope, I doubt we’ll be seeing Sasha Baron Cohen eating doggy poop.

  14. Well, if he did, he would be rightly accused of ripping off Divine’s act, so there wouldn’t be much to be gained from it. And that’s the kind of thing where you probably need a pretty strong incentive.

  15. david wingrove Says:

    At the risk of being sued for libel, I must stress that I have NO personal knowledge of the sexuality of Mr. Andreas Kronthaler Westwood. Although I have met him once, our acquaintance did not stretch beyond breakfast – and it was, I must repeat, ONLY breakfast with none of the usual ‘night before’ preambles.

    The parallel with Bruno was drawn, not by me, but by an article in The Observer. I found the comparison apt and funny…but beyond that I cannot go. While I have – to my everlasting embarrassment – dated a number of Bruno-esque men (it seemed like a good idea at the time) I must state that none of them was Mr AKW!

  16. Yes, sorry if I implied more Kronthaler familiarity than was actually the case. I inadvertently conflated two statements you made, one about Kronthaler’s resemblance to Bruno, the other about there being real gay men like Bruno.

    Mr Kronthaler is undoubtedly just as straight as Bruno’s idols, Travolta, Cruise and Spacey.

  17. david wingrove Says:

    If not straighter!

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