This week - Borat visits the USA (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) and British rom-com set on Hampstead Heath, (Scenes of a Sexual Nature).
When we saw the posters for this on the tube, with five star reviews from the News of the World and the Mirror, we were ready for this to be shit. Turns out it's ok though, who'd have thought? All of the reviewers are pleased with Cohen's second big screen offering, although this week they fall into the old reviewer trap of simply cataloging what happens in the film - let us go and see it!
Peter Bradshaw, don of all things intellectual and high brow (although he did like the Dirty Sanchez movie) loves Borat. Five out of five from the Guardian!
He describes the film as "so funny, so breathtakingly offensive, so suicidally discourteous, that strictly speaking it shouldn't be legal". It is impossible not to know who Borat is, Bradshaw sums him up well,
Borat is an innocent of the guiltiest sort: he is boorish, he is grotesquely misogynist, he is crass. Above all he is an anti-semite, and for cinemagoers who have become used to the unwritten convention that anti-semitism is not represented on screen other than in the period garb of Nazi Germany, it is almost a physical shock to feel the swipe of Borat's contemporary bigotry.
Regarding anti-semitism, "It goes beyond satire into pure anarchy, pure craziness. And it's also very funny."
Anthony Quinn at the Independent also really likes the film, giving it 4/5 and proclaiming, "the art of provocation has a new grandmaster" who sets the level of offensiveness "toxically high".. but in a good way.. he thinks! "You don't know whether to lower your head in your hands or throw it back and roar". For him "the real interest lies in how closely that bigotry conforms to a certain American mindset... Just book yourself a seat and be ready to laugh like a hyena. Is naice!"
James Christopher at the Times only gives the film 3/5 but does describe it as "a film to cherish." So what's the problem?
Inevitably the satire has to run out of steam. Cohen can’t possibly sustain the Candid Camera magic without resorting to clunky set-ups. During the last quarter the giggly targets are too much in the know. The punchlines ring hollow, and the reaction shots look staged.
Ahh.. even Bradshaw has written that "from the way it is shot, some of Borat's encounters could be staged." but then for him "the best moments, and that's pretty much all of them, have the unmistakable look of real people really being astonished and horrified by Borat"
Thumbs up we think!
Next up, Scenes of a Sexual Nature.
This is set on one afternoon on Hampstead Heath and investigates the relationships of seven couples.
The Guardian was obviously a bit star-happy this week. Three stars from Xan Brooks.
Full credit to the makers of Scenes of a Sexual Nature for making a good-looking, talent-filled feature for a reported cost of just £260,000.If only the end result didn't feel like such a public thank-you to those who took part, an open-air drama workshop in the guise of a film.
Sounds pretty annoying to us. But Brooks claims that "some of the strands have a warm and heartfelt charm." so if that's your bag...
The other papers weren't so kind to this one. Anthony Quinn in the Independent (1/5)
This ensemble comedy has the wan look of a Richard Curtis squib that never made it from the drawing-board. Set on a sunny afternoon in Hampstead Heath, it flits merrily through a suite of stories - actually, half-baked situations - that involve couples courting, arguing, breaking up, letting go, and generally talking in that arch tone that British screenwriters often mistake for wit.
Ide in the Times (1/5) is the most scathing.
Scenes of a Sexual Nature, is so lightweight that it would just float away without its heavyweight cast. But you have to wonder what the likes of Ewan McGregor, Gina McKee, Andrew Lincoln and Mark Strong were thinking when they signed up. It’s a sun-kissed day on Hampstead Heath, and the thoughts of the locals turn to love, life, sex and the vastly inflated wages earned by Premiership footballers. Unfortunately the screenplay offers no real insight into any of these topics. It’s clumsily directed but generally pretty inoffensive, except for the intrusively perky score — it made me want to kill people.
You shouldn't risk this film making you want to kill people. That just won't do and the penalties for getting caught are high. Go and see Borat.
Other films out this week - Mischief Night (Set in 1970s Beeston, two families - one white and one Asian - come together on the annual night of delinquency and mayhem.), Candy (A love affair between a young artist and her partner takes them into the harsh world of drugs and to the edge of sanity.), Romanzo Criminale (Between the 1970s and the 1990s, a crime lord methodically conquers the Roman underground with a highly organised gang), strong>Little Children (A young mother ill-at-ease in an upmarket cirle of aspirational Boston supermoms embarks on a passionate affair with a man looking after his own young child.), Sixty Six (A boy's barmitzvah coincides with England's victory in the 1966 World Cup.) The Page Turner (Years after she fails the entrance exam to the Conservatory because of the jury's offhand attitude, a girl has a chance at revenge.) and Waist Deep (A recently paroled ex-convict gets involved with a gang after his son is kidnapped during a carjacking.)
Trailer of the week - Charlotte's Web