It happened, appropriately enough, during the “not” joke: The projector broke and the midnight screening of Borat came to a screeching halt, just as a humor coach solemnly informed Borat that his joke about his mentally challenged brother raping his prostitute sister “would not be funny in America.” After 20 minutes of hyperventilating laughter from the sold-out Toronto Film Fest crowd, confusion set in: Borat (a.k.a. Sacha Baron Cohen) was in the audience and in character — so anything was possible. He’d begun the evening on a peasant-woman-drawn cart, thanking “anti-communist organization of Fox” for its support. After the projector mishap, he’d stood and made a short speech, protesting that he’d used “finest horse glue” to assemble the film. Was this all a Kaufman-esque stunt? And, if so, which Kaufman, George, Andy or Charlie? A guy with a skunk-striped pompadour, calling himself “Canada’s foremost mentalist,” rose from his seat and began spoon-bending for a massively unamused audience. Then the rumors began. Michael Moore was in the audience, and it was whispered that the docu-lutionary firebrand was fixing the projector.
This turned out to be half true. “I used to do this for a living,” said Moore, taking the stage alongside Boratdirector Larry Charles. Instantly at home in front of a crowd, Mooreexplained that the projector needed a part. “So we are scrambling tosteal a part from another Canadian movie projector. And since I knowthe doors aren’t locked up here–” [laughter] “–I’ve sent a couple ofAmericans to one of the other theaters to steal it.”
Someone asked if Moore would rather be home in bed.
“You can’t sleep these days if you’re an American,” he answeredreliably. Cheers! “I think it’s time we stopped picking on Tom Cruise.”Boos!
“Michael just converted to Scientology earlier today,” said Charles.
“I’ll be making out with John Travolta in the lobby after the show,” Moore batted back.
“Can I get a late note for school?” someone asked.
“I’ll come to your school,” Moore said, almost threateningly. Heanswered several other questions, including when his health care exposeSicko would be debuting (next June).
Larry Charles singles out Ari Emanuel, model for Entourage’sAri Gold — he’s sitting in the back. Larry fires him, to hugeapplause. Then Borat himself re-took the stage. “I want to thankmeester Lawrence Charles… and this fat man.” The fat man in questionnodded.
Questions rained from the restless but still adoring crowd: “What did you learn from your trip to America?”
Borat: “It is now illegal to shoot Red Indians. I would like apologize to staff of the Pawtuckee Casino in Kansas.”
And with that, Borat offended perhaps the one group he hadn’tmanaged to guilelessly slur in his movie. Which no one saw that night– the part never arrived and the screening was cancelled. Journalistshad to wait until the next morning to be flabbergasted by its brazen,brilliant misanthropy. Boratis an act of comic terror that will be written about extensively in thecoming weeks. I’ll have more on it presently, along with Stranger Than Fiction (tidy, clever, minor, perhaps covertly infuriating) and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen(is there such a thing as stark spiritual intimacy? yes there is),which I also saw today. Suffice it to say, Cohen is delivering on thelegacy of Andy Kaufman — and delivering very real laughs, not justconceptual ones. He is sweetly vicious in his hatred of pretense, andgoes after it with heartless precision. What is revealed here is notfor the faint of heart, nor the devoid-of-perspective.