AUSTIN, Texas — Some of the wildest scenes in the upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “Bruno” were shot in Texas, so it seems only fitting that he would choose to unleash some early footage right here in the state’s film vortex.
A few hundred movie fans got a sneak peek at 22 minutes of “Bruno” late Sunday at the South by Southwest film festival, which opened Friday. The scenes came in three segments, with Baron Cohen appearing on screen in between in an editing room to introduce them in an overly proper English accent.
“Bruno,” due out July 10 from Universal Pictures, follows the same basic formula the British comic used to huge commercial and critical success with 2006’s “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”
Instead of a clueless Kazakh TV journalist struggling to understand American culture, Baron Cohen’s Bruno character is a flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion correspondent hoping to make it big in Hollywood. But the net result is the same from the people he provokes on screen: shock, outrage and a satirical exposure of human prejudices.
In the first bit of footage, Bruno has decided to achieve celebrity by adopting a black baby, and wants to feature the child in an avant-garde performance art project. (“Ich bin pushing the limits,” he explains in broken German.) He interviews several mothers and fathers to determine whether their children would be suitable to play guest stars, and his questions grow increasingly absurd: Are they afraid of stuffed animals? Reptiles? Hornets? Would they be OK with being dropped off a four-story building, or willing to have liposuction? Regardless of the request, the parents categorically say “yes.”
Part two, which was shot just north of Dallas, finds Bruno appearing on a Jerry Springer-style talk show in leather pants, looking for Mr. Right. Members of the predominantly black studio audience are appalled by his in-your-face homosexuality, and they get even angrier when he brings out his adopted baby and shows them a self-consciously artsy photograph of the child posing as Jesus on a cross. Although it appears there are a few plants in the crowd to ask the right questions, the majority of them seem genuinely disgusted as they storm out.
Finally, Bruno decides to reinvent himself by going hetero and changing his name to “Straight Dave.” Dressed like Ted Nugent in camouflage, long hair and a scruffy beard, he stages a mixed-martial arts contest, which was shot last summer in Arkansas. When Bruno’s ex-boyfriend crawls into the ring and the two start making out, stripping and rubbing all over each other, spectators in the conservative crowd holler, make anti-gay slurs and throw plastic cups of beer at them. They end up storming out, too.
The moment was edited to the tune of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Judging by the raucous reaction these early scenes got in Austin, Baron Cohen’s about to feel the love from moviegoers all over again this summer.
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