Brüno - the most vulgar comedy ever made or the most daring social experiment ever attempted?


Brüno (USA, 2009)

Seen: Saturday, 18th July 2009 (cinema)
Runtime: 81′
Director: Larry Charles
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten
Production House: Everyman Pictures, Four by Two, Media Rights Capital
Plot: Brüno is a gay Austrian fashion journalist… or was one until a very embarrassing accident after which the fashion world completely isolates him. It is then that he decides he must go to Los Angeles and become world famous at any price.

Video Publicity
I may be wrong, but it looks like Brüno is such a vulgar character than a lot of talk show hosts freaked out and didn’t invite him :] Relatively few interviews are around and the ones that are up all have very liberal hosts.
Below is Sacha Baron Cohen as Brüno on Rove and it’s a totally hilarious interview :) (Rove is truly one of the most laid back hosts I’ve seen lol)

Sacha Baron Cohen did do Letterman, but it seems that Letterman put his foot down or something and didn’t want to conduct the actual interview with Brüno, so the only part of it that Cohen did in character was the top ten reasons to see Brüno. Can’t find the full interview unfortunately - seems it was taken down by CBS *sigh* There’s a short clip embedded later on in the review though.
This is an amusing clip in which Paula Abdul describes what it was like to be conned by Brüno. And here’s the interview on the Conan O’Brian show. In American talk show standards he’s extremely liberal, but I think he got a bit more than he was comfortable with. The second time Brüno says “blow job” he actually reacted a bit sharply (probably because he would get hell from his superiors or something).

Impressions In Short
What Sacha Baron Cohen tried to do was way more interesting than what he actually did do…

More About the Film
As far as I’m concerned, this film has one absolutely gigantic flaw and it’s the editing of it. They basically killed the movie with the editing choices they made.
The most unique and intriguing thing about Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of comedy is that it crosses the line between documentary and feature film. When you watch his films you never quite know how much of it was staged and how much of it was for real.
In Brüno they chose to go into quick MTV style editing rather than into the home video sort of look (the way Borat was done). IMO awkward silences are critical to Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy - cutting them out in the editing process is a criminal act ;) I mean they did leave some of the awkward silences in - especially in the latter parts of the film, but some of the film was ruined by the style of editing they chose IMO.
I also think that if the film had been edited more in the home video sort of style it wouldn’t have felt as vulgar (I think I can safely say it’s the most vulgar film I’ve ever seen). I seem to have developed a relatively thick skin as far as vulgarity goes, but this went a bit far even for me. It probably would have been a bit too vulgar for me even if the editing had been different ;) But a lot of the scenes that got to me were in the quick editing kind of style and I did seem to deal with the vulgarity better when all the awkward silences were left in.
The most intriguing thing about Brüno for me was how far Sacha Baron Cohen was willing to go. In fact at a certain point in the film I stopped watching it as a comedy and started watching it as some sort of strange social experiment and that was when I started enjoying it a lot more. For example, apparently he interviewed a real terrorist for the film, check out the clip below:

If you believe he really is crazy enough to do this sort of stuff (and I tend to believe him) then it’s even more annoying that the style of editing plays against it. I think the terrorist interview would have benefited from a more home video style of editing (not that it was that choppy, but still…).
I was also quite shocked to see how far this film went on the sex content. I normally roll my eyes when people start comparing mainstream films to porn, but for once I totally get the accusations levelled at Brüno - it really treads a very fine line. It has some pretty graphic (albeit staged) sex scenes at the beginning. I guess they were sort of funny, but they were so vulgar that I found them a bit much. But there is also a scene later on in the film when the sex, as far as I can tell, is not staged. Funnily enough the scene is much milder and less vulgar than most of the sexual content in the film, so it hasn’t even gotten much attention (I was much more uncomfortable during the sex scenes at the beginning of the film which were very clearly staged). And any body parts that could offend are blacked out (unlike elsewhere in the movie :]). But, as mild as it was, it was still kind of shocking to see that - it’s certainly the first time I’ve seen unsimulated sex in a commercial Hollywood movie! The scene in question is during a swingers party. Bruno tries to change his sexual orientation and develop an interest in women, so he ends up at a party amongst lots of heterosexual couples having sex (his own attempt at sex with a woman doesn’t go very far though).
At the end of the film there’s a scene when I seriously thought he was going to give a blow job to another man in front of thousands of people, but I guess even Sacha Baron Cohen has his limits :] Unsimulated sex in front of the camera is probably more than he’s willing to do at this time… unless he’s saving that for his next film that is ;)
In terms of sexual content I guess I have to mention one more scene (as this one has received a lot of attention) - the full frontal :] I think it’s the first time somebody’s dick has been presented on screen in such a way (it even talks). I watched some interviews with Seth Rogen after seeing Zack and Miri Make a Porno and he said something along the lines of that after seeing the audience reaction to Jason Mewes’ full frontal he can’t help but think that the dick is in as far as comic performances go. I didn’t take him seriously, but now that I’ve seen my second comic dick within a month I think Seth Rogen may have been onto something there :]
Going back to Sacha Baron Cohen I’m getting increasingly intrigued by how good an actor he is. He’s a great character actor - there’s no doubt about it. What many people may doubt is his ability to do drama and more serious kinds of acting. But I’m confident he’d be great in a dramatic part. Both in the case of Borat and Brüno there were scenes of melodrama and drama and he was just as good in them as he is in comedy. And, though this may be a very strange way to compliment an actor, I think the fact that I really thought he might go for the blow job at the end (my mum thought the same btw) says something too ;) That scene really did look like it was going that way (my mum actually asked me whether Sacha Baron Cohen is gay and I think I’d have been wondering too if I hadn’t known he has a fiancée and a kid).
I kind of feel like saying a few words about Lutz - Brüno’s assistant. Gustaf Hammarsten, who played him, was very endearing in his love for Brüno. But I’m not sure the character worked as well comically as Azamat Bagatov did in Borat. On the other hand I’m not sure what kind of character would have been a good sidekick for Brüno, so…
Finally, I wanted to mention one scene that hit me more than any other in the film - not because it was vulgar or bad or whatever, but because it showed a certain attitude that many men have about women. During Brüno’s attempt to change his sexual orientation he goes to some Christian specialists who will guide him in the right direction. The second specialist he visits goes into this speech about women and why men need them and he was basically describing us like a different species. It was freaky to see that cause this guy really meant what he said.

My feelings about the film are mixed… I guess it might be worth it for people who like very vulgar comedy. For everyone else probably not - unless the lengths Sacha Baron Cohen is prepared to go to intrigue you as much as they do me ;)

Leave a comment