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Bruno Schmuno

Mark Simpson on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Austrian anus-dilator

Let’s be honest, Bruno is pretty bad. And quite tedious.

But not as bad, or as overlong as this earnest review of it by a crestfallen Anthony Lane in The New Yorker

‘There is, on the evidence of this movie, no such thing as gay love; there is only gay sex, a superheated substitute for love, with its own code of vulcanized calisthenics whose aim is not so much to sate the participants as to embarrass onlookers from the straight—and therefore straitlaced—society beyond.’

Which happens to also be inaccurate: one of the biggest disappointments in a film brimming with disappointments, was the way that after literally jamming a pedal-powered dildo up the audience’s behind, Bruno copped out at the end with a gay marriage and conventional Hollywood love-story happily-ever-after. Schmaltzy gay wedlock replaces kinky bumsex and Bruno is seemingly cured of his predatory lust for any and all men that come his way – and even his own narcissism. Hurrah!

Sacha Baron Cohen saw you (and GLAAD) coming, Miss Lane.

I know, I know: neither of us have much to whine about as there really is no need to see any SBC film. Everyone should know that now. Disappointment is SBC’s stock in trade. Anyone who actually goes to see one of his films – and lots and lots of us do – automatically disqualifies themselves from criticising it by making themselves look even more stupid than SBC’s unwitting and (increasingly) unsophisticated victims.

Not just because all the best gags have been relentlessly trailed months before the opening, but because the endless publicity opps and stunts are the nearest thing to a point. And let’s be blunter than the gay Austrian’s most terrifying sex toy: Bruno’s be-thonged buttocks in Em’s nose-wrinkling, fear-distorted face at the MTV Awards was, oh, about 1000% funnier than anything in the film. A film which is, reassuringly, even more vacuous than celeb-addled fashion victim Bruno himself.

But if everyone knows this, it seems the more educated you are the less likely you are to admit it. Or likely to take a film like this seriously. A lot of tosh has been written in ‘quality’ publications about how this ‘clever’ movie ‘confronts homophobia’. The film makes rather a lot of fun of bummers and their bumming – which, I’m all in favour of, of course. But not under the cringe-making guise of ‘confronting homophobia’ – that kind of guff makes me gag, and not, as Bruno might say, in a good way.

SBC himself effectively admits that he’s not ‘confronting homophobia’ by making Bruno so annoying/desperate as to be beyond sexuality – and sympathy. He’s in a category of his own. Usually he only manages to make people – such as the rednecks he goes on a hunting trip with or the swingers – lose their temper and use un-PC words (shock! horror!) by literally getting into their faces. And frankly, if someone had smacked him in the face it would have made the film a lot more watchable.

The unaccountably critically-adored Borat was an embarrassingly bad and (this is being kind) pointless movie that likewise presented as its official message: ‘anti-Semitism is wrong and stupid’ – while basically offering the viewer an anti-Slavic extravaganza, complete with ruthless economic exploitation and humiliation of Romanian peasant extras. (The character of Borat was originally based on a Southern Russian – Kazakhstan is just a red-herring).

So instead of a review I’ll just tell you about the funny bits you might not have seen in the trailer, or saw but forgot, to save you the trouble of seeing the film yourselves – even though I know you’re going to anyway.

1) The eye-popping sequence early on the film where Bruno describes him and his ‘Pygmy’ boyfriend as ‘just like any other boring couple’ and then we see Bruno ramming everything in the house up his boyfriend’s bumhole, and vice versa, including a bottle of champagne, a fire extinguisher and a pedal-powered dildo. (This was probably my favourite part of the film – but only because I knew it would incense the ‘gays are just like everyone else!’ crowd.)

2) The interview with Christian ex-gays, when Bruno says to one of them, who does look very faggy,

B: ‘It’s a shame you are straight because you have cocksucking lips.’

X Gay: ‘These lips were made for praising the Lord.’

B: ‘Your lips were definitely made for zomething, but not that.’


(Though personally I prefer his very similar TV interview nearly ten years ago when he asked one of the Christian ex-gayers about ‘gay’ habits of his that he might have to give up: ‘What about eating chocolatey things all ze time?’ Came the earnest reply: ‘If eating chocolate is a shared family experience then that is fine – but if it is something that reminds you of your previous lifestyle, that’s wrong in the eyes of the Lord.’ In fact, I think I prefer the Bruno and the SBC of ten years ago – he was less extreme, more likeable, more whimsical, more… funny.  But if you look up some clips you’ll also see that Bruno of ten years ago is… what straight men look like today.)

3) The very short ‘Bruno Joins the Army’ section, where he is shouted at by three US National Guard DIs (who are clearly in on the joke) is rather amusing, but was done much better nearly 60 years ago by Jerry Lewis in Jumping Jacks.

4) It’s not very funny – more creepy and cringe making – but one of the few scenes that doesn’t look staged (probably because his victim is so old as to be clueless about SBC) is the interview with former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul. ‘He’s queer! He’s crazy!’ says Mr Paul, fleeing as fast as his rickety old legs will take him after Bruno starts undressing next to him in a hotel bedroom.

He’s not queer, of course, and he’s not crazy. He’s just very, very ambitious -and even more ruthless. SBC, that is.

The ‘climax’ of the film, where Bruno, having ‘straightened himself out’, appears in a cage fight in some redneck town is clearly something SBC & Co. feel very proud of, but I’m not sure why. In it he starts undressing and kissing his opponent (who is actually his German assistant, the one whom he marries at the end of the film in the next scene). The crowd, which has probably been stage-managed, goes wild and throws chairs, women scream, grown men cry. The camera zooms in on all of this, while romantic music plays. It feels like something powerful is being said – but that’s it. It just feels like it. Largely because of the music and the fact that there is no punchline.

‘Homophobia’ isn’t being ‘confronted’ – a bunch of rural rednecks are being exploited. By a sophisticated, Cambridge-educated, Hollywood comedian in order to make him even more famous and fabulously wealthy than he already is – and get even more big names to join him for the charidee record spoof that rolls over the credits. After all, everyone can feel superior to rednecks.

Oh, and the whole movie, and the concept of the Bruno character going to Hollywood is redundant from the get-go: why would America need to import a foul-mouthed fame-fag with no sense of shame or self-consciousness from Austria? After all, it already has Perez Hilton.

If you want to watch a movie about a fashion victim that is actually funny and doesn’t leave the wrong kind of bad taste in your mouth, rent Zoolander.

The only filmic spoofs that SBC does that work any more are the ones he plays on the liberal film critics like Mr Lane.

And that kind of gag isn’t nearly funny enough.

Tip: Elise M

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10 thoughts on “Bruno Schmuno”

  1. I also might have had a good experience had the audience been appalled. I’m posting mainly to say that I saw the film in a cineplex in Kentucky, where I’m sure many of you would expect walk-outs. I didn’t see a single one. I’d describe the medium-sized audience at the matinee as being made up of the better (sillier) kind of frat boy. I didn’t hear any fag remarks, or any gagging either. Nor did I hear much laughter.

    I didn’t find the film as agonizing as Borat, which I thought seemed like some straight-to-video pisstake reminiscent of Tim Conway’s Dorf videos. I did on the other hand again ask myself: Why am I watching an old-fashioned Candid Camera-type show on a big screen?

    I enjoyed the dildo fight. Nothing else, really.

    Interesting piece on the Guardian’s site today about how the terrorist in the film was no such thing. I also saw the Letterman interview in which Cohen went on and on about the daring of having sat down with that man. He’s making Michael Moore look meticulously accurate by comparison.

  2. Audience participation would have improved my viewing of the film.

    I don’t know where you caught it, but where I saw it (Middlesbrough, one of the roughest parts of the UK), the audience of was comprised mostly of groups of young working class males – many of whom I lusted after, almost Bruno-like, as they walked past me – who just passively ate popcorn and laughed for the most part rather politely.

  3. The notion of going had occured to me interestingly (for the same reason scene(1)) that it offended the mainstream mob– those seeking to ape Heterosexist routines and doom the rest of us subversives to gay Hell. (I’m convinced that in their heart of hearts they think that there is such a thing). Nonetheless, I am very predictable in my presistence in just walking out on something tacky, and I might not make it to that scene from the sounds of it. I’m gratefull that you did the work for me, took the time, spent the money and got to suffer the consequences. Great interview!

  4. I must admit, I enjoyed the film.
    Mind you, I had something of an agitprop movie experience- men in front of me yelling at SBC onscreen; fag-this, fag-that, and groaning groaning groaning.

    And each time someone walked out, or blurted another something out, or quietly whispered complaining, my movie experience was amplified. I had never felt more aware that I was in a theatre with a bunch of other folks living through the mildly funny, ‘shocking’ experience I also happened to be witnessing. It was refreshing. In this respect, I might equate him with a cringe-inducing bouffon for the screen. A social outcast, light on his feet, heavy in his eyes, making fun of the audience members who somehow expected something else.

    Bruno had its moments. I did not enjoy Borat. But there’s something to be said about a real film experience happening during the film rather than after the film quietly at the Starbucks across the street.

  5. That’s true – I’d forgotten about that scene. Which is odd, because it was actually quite funny. Maybe the grimness of the rest of the film forces you to repress the memory of anything genuinely funny.

  6. It would have improved my estimation of Em about 1000% if he had. But then he’s not a British rugby player, so there was no chance of it. And if someone had responded to Bruno/Sacha’s swishy advances in the film and in effect put his mouth where their money-maker is, it would have improved the movie by a similar ratio. Because it would have been possibly the only unscripted part of this ‘reality’ movie.

  7. ‘Bruno’s be-thonged buttocks in Em’s nose-wrinkling, fear-distorted face at the MTV Awards was, oh, about 1000% funnier than anything in the film’ – wouldn’t it have been sensational, in so many ways, if Eminem had dived right in there tongue waggling energetically.

  8. There you go questioning Gay Orthodoxy again…. GLAAD will be after you with pitchforks for your daring comments.

    Don’t you know that redneck straight men have to look at staged events of two men getting it on? How else are they going to be cured of that terrible Homophobia that they must, by being rednecks, have in spades?

    But to do SBC credit, I did laugh at the baby-as-a-fashion-accessory plot line.

  9. Y’know Mark – this post just makes me even more curious as to your sexual habits. I’m thinking Midgets and Mark – and for some reason that I dare not probe, I’m getting very excited.

  10. ” ‘Homophobia’ isn’t being ‘confronted’ – a bunch of rural rednecks are being exploited. By a sophisticated, Cambridge-educated, Hollywood comedian in order to make him even more famous and fabulously wealthy than he already is – and get even more big names to join him for the charidee record spoof that rolls over the credits. After all, everyone can feel superior to rednecks.”

    Well done, Mark. I expected something cleverer from SBC or, if not, then at least sillier. But instead one got overkill & cruelty. Fame, fame, fatal fame…

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