Is ‘BrÃ¼no’ a brilliant satire of gay stereotypes or Exhibit A in a right winger’s defense of homophobia? Yes
For years, gays have had a love-hate relationship with the outrÃ© elements of their community. Yes, we embrace leather daddies and drag queens and dykes on bikes — the whole panoply of fetishes and lifestyles. With exposure comes acceptance. But does the local news have to show only nipple-pierced men on leashes in their Pride parade coverage?
"BrÃ¼no," Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to "Borat," manages to be both a send-up of such stereotypes and a sad confirmation of them for those looking for validation of their suspicions and homophobia. Cohen is straight, and he has a laser-like sensitivity for what makes heteros (males in particular) uncomfortable. And he aims right for the soft flesh of their insecurities about their manhood.
That it witheringly exploits these feelings and captures them onscreen in what is expected to be one of the tentpole mainstream Hollywood films of the summer should be a balm to gay rights, which have taken it on the chin recently with the passage (and judicial affirmation) of Prop 8, Obama’s string of broken promises and even the Fort Worth Police Department’s Gestapo tactics on the anniversary of Stonewall. "Milk," "Brokeback Mountain" and "BrÃ¼no"? Could that really be the trifecta, a serial threesome that proves queer-themed films need not reside in the gay ghetto of indie festivals and art houses?
The problem is, Cohen throws himself so into his character — a flamboyantly vapid Austrian fashionista who, like Borat, travels the U.S. (and the world) and lures unsuspecting victims into ambush interviews designed to humiliate and test their levels of tolerance — not only do his subjects squirm at his in-your-face behavior, the audience does, too. When BrÃ¼no goes on a hunting trip with three rural Alabamans, getting naked and entering the tent of one at 3 a.m., I found myself in the unusual position of sympathizing with the gun-toting rednecks.
Maybe the tumultuous laughter will soften any hard feelings. "BrÃ¼no" is funnier than "Borat," perhaps owing to how the targets of Cohen’s humor this time are not so much innocent Middle Americans (Alabama hunters aside) but Left Coast elites: Stage parents willing to endanger their children for a job, or politicos (like Texas Congressman Ron Paul), or trendy Tinseltown types (celebrity adoption junkies and faux-charity shills), or gay conversion therapists who deserve everything they get.
But mostly, the brilliance of "BrÃ¼no," and what sets it apart from "Borat," is how it doesn’t really make fun of people for a wide range of their beliefs, but just for one: How they react to a gay perspective on life. The ending (no spoiler here) is a bit of genius that hammers home the inanity (if not insanity) of homophobia. For those who get it, it’s the satire of the year; for everyone else it represents the sum of all queers.
Opens today in wide release.
TRANNIES & KNIVES & A FILM FEST, OH MY!
Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna has had — and will continue to have — a busy month.
The gay auteur of "R U Invited?" and "The Deadbeat Club" is in the middle of production on his latest oeuvre, the subtly-titled "Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives" ("my homage to the revenge-fantasy exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s," he calls it). It’s being filmed all across the Metroplex, and is set for release in the fall.
Principal photography should end just in time for Luna to hightail it to NYC for the International Latino Film Festival, where his last film, the horror-comedy "Fright Flick," has been slotted for its world premiere (well, aside from a screening in Dallas).
To help finance the cast and crew’s trip to the Big Apple, Luna has teamed with Caven Enterprises (entertainment director Richard Curtin appears in the film) to hold a fundraiser in the Rose Room on July 22. For a suggested $10 donation, you can help Dallas filmmaking represent in New York City while enjoying drinks, food … and a horror movie.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 10, 2009.