July 12, 2009 / 4:40 AM / 8 years ago

Austrians say outrageous Bruno ist pretty funny

<p>British actor Sacha Baron Cohen arrives for the British premiere of the film Bruno at Leicester Square in central London, June 17, 2009.Toby Melville</p>

VIENNA (Reuters) - A shocking gay fashion reporter who dreams of being "the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler" raised giggles when he hit Austrian cinemas on Friday despite having rankled some who say his jokes go too far.

"Bruno," a film from British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, tells the story of a hapless television journalist from the Alpine city of Klagenfurt who takes his outrageous attitude and outfits to the United States in search of fame.

The film follows Cohen's surprise 2006 box office hit "Borat," a fake documentary where he played a Kazakh journalist.

Cohen's new alter-ego has upset some for gags such as saying the "Austrian Dream" is to "have a job, find a dungeon and raise a family there" in a nod to Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who locked up and raped his daughter in a cellar over 24 years, fathering seven children with her.

"The film isn't really about Austria -- sure there were cliches but it would have been funny with an Englishman or an American," said 33-year-old Sabine Doods, coming out of a Vienna cinema. "It might make Austria famous for a little while."

Subtitled "Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt," the film uses in-your-face comedy to expose homophobia.

Bruno flees his homeland after his Velcro jumpsuit causes havoc at a fashion show and he is sacked from his Austrian job. He goes to Hollywood, adopts an African baby in exchange for an iPod and tries to get kidnapped, all in a bid for stardom.

Some gay advocates have said they are worried the film could reinforce negative stereotypes about homosexuals and a few Austrians have reacted unhappily. Austria's new envoy to Britain called for a boycott, criticizing the film's "cheap" jokes.

"I guess it might stop people confusing Austria with Australia and it might make people remember Hitler is Austrian not German, they always seem to get that one muddled up," said 35-year-old lawyer and moviegoer Arthur Machac, who described the film as "pretty average" but "inoffensive to Austria."

Fans point out that no one is safe from Cohen's one-trick gag, not even the President of the United States, who Bruno criticized in a newspaper interview earlier this week for failing to show the kind of "change" he can believe in.

"Ich suggest Barack, zhat you change the record," he told Austrian broadsheet Der Standard in his mock Austro-English.

"Put on Just Dance by Lady Gaga, rip off your shirt and give us all a glimpse of what we voted for!" he told the paper, which dedicated its in-depth 'Themes' page to the film with the headline "Hitler vas a bit of a bitch."

Reactions to the film have been mildly positive in the Austrian press, though some call it repetitive. Christian Fuchs at radio station FM4 writes on his blog that "hidden beneath the hard-as-nails satirist Cohen, lies a humanist who enlightens."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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