Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, ends with an already notorious sequence in which Rudy Giuliani goes into a hotel bedroom with a young woman whom he believes to be a journalist, stretches out on the bed, and sticks his hand into his pants. The woman in question, 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova, is playing Borat’s 15-year-old daughter, Tutar; Tutar, in turn, is pretending to be an of-age journalist as part of a scheme in which she will be offered to Giuliani as a wife, for make benefit once glorious nation of Kazakhstan.
Those facts are not in dispute, but everything else is, because Giuliani has responded to headlines like “Giuliani caught in hotel bedroom scene in new ‘Borat’ film” and “Giuliani’s compromising scene in the ‘Borat’ sequel is another hit to Trump’s personal attorney” by vociferously denying any wrongdoing:
There are two major issues here. First, and most importantly, no one—least of all Rudy Giuliani—should ever again tweet, type, speak, or think the phrase “We are preparing much bigger dumps.” Second, could Giuliani be telling the truth? In a general sense, the answer is yes: You can stitch together real footage in ways that tell a story that isn’t true at all. In fact, the new Borat movie does this all the time, including in the immediate lead-up to the bedroom scene.
In that sequence, Borat, who has had a change of heart about offering his daughter as a gift to Rudy Giuliani, drives hell-for-leather to the Manhattan hotel where the interview is going to take place, screeches his truck to a stop outside the building, and sprints into the lobby, where security stops him from going up to the room. That’s what’s on screen, but a closer look at the details makes it clear that none of that happened as it’s presented. The establishing shot of the hotel where Giuliani is interviewed tells us we’re in “Manhattan, New York”:
This is actually the exterior of the Westin Jersey City Newport hotel, across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s a few miles away from where it’s supposed to be, which is actually extremely geographically accurate compared with the next few shots. When Borat drives to the hotel, he screeches his pickup truck to a halt on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles:
And the shots of the lobby, where Borat frantically tells the security guards he needs to “defend my daughter’s vagin from America’s Mayor” are back in Jersey City at the Westin. Meanwhile, the interview with Giuliani was shot at the only actual Manhattan location in the sequence, the Mark Hotel at Madison and 77th. (The room appears to be a Madison Suite on the eighth floor.) In other words, it’s pretty easy to cut together footage that implies things happened that actually didn’t, and Sacha Baron Cohen, like nearly every filmmaker, does this routinely.
So with that in mind, let’s look closely at the sequence with Giuliani and Tutar in the hotel bedroom. It’s 32 seconds long and is made up of nine shots. The first shows Tutar and Giuliani in the living room where the interview was conducted. Giuliani, who is already holding a glass of what looks like whiskey, picks up a notebook and a mask.
On the soundtrack, Tutar says, “Shall we have a drink in the bedroom?” but her face isn’t on camera, so the audio could be from another point in the conversation, or it could have been dubbed in later. The second shot shows Giuliani following Tutar into the hotel bedroom.
On the soundtrack, we hear Giuliani say, “C’mere. C’mere,” but as with Tutar in the earlier shot, his lips aren’t visible. This audio is probably from the next shot (screenwriters call this a “prelap”), which jumps forward in time. Giuliani and Tutar are now on the other side of the bedroom, where he has put his notebook and mask down (his whiskey glass is nowhere to be seen) and seems to be helping Tutar either remove a microphone or adjust her dress:
On the audio over this shot is the following dialogue:
GIULIANI: Hold up. Here you go, my dear.
GIULIANI: There, you’re—you’re good.
The next shot is another jump forward in time. Tutar appears to be reaching for the nightstand in the last frame of the preceding shot, but in the first frame of this one, she’s turned toward Giuliani, who is sitting down on the bed. Giuliani says, “You can give me your phone number and your address,” as he sits, but his face is not on camera, so the audio could be taken from any point in the interview. There’s no denying the way he pats Tutar on her lower back as she leans in to remove his microphone, however:
The next shot, which seems like more or less an instantaneous cut, uses the hotel room’s circular mirror to get an angle on Giuliani, as Tutar, apparently attempting to remove his microphone, untucks his shirt. “Should we slip your jacket?” she asks, and he replies, “OK.” Neither person’s face is visible, but the audio appears synchronized with what’s happening on screen.
From there, we jump slightly forward in time—Tutar has finished removing the microphone and is no longer touching Giuliani—to a shot from the corner camera of Giuliani as he leans back on the bed, lifts the waistband of his pants with his left hand, then slides his right hand inside:
There’s a seemingly instantaneous cut to the mirror camera, for a shot that shows Tutar leaning away from Giuliani toward the nightstand, as Giuliani adjusts his shirt and briefly removes his hand from his pants before reinserting it. Giuliani is looking at Tutar, and there’s the sound of heavy breathing on the soundtrack, although, again, there’s no particular reason to believe the audio is from that moment in time, especially since Giuliani has apparently taken his mic off.
The next shot jumps backward in time—you can tell by tracking Tutar as she leans toward the nightstand—and repeats the moment from the mirror shot where Giuliani sticks his hand down his pants for the second time:
This cut makes it seem like Giuliani sticks his hand down his pants three times instead of only twice. Finally, there’s a brief shot from behind Giuliani: As Borat yells “Put down your khrum” from off-screen, Giuliani pulls his hands from his pants, says, “Oop,” and sits up.
From then on out, it’s just Borat and America’s Mayor yelling at each other. So here’s what we can say for sure about what happened:
1. Rudy Giuliani followed a young woman he thought was a journalist into the bedroom of a hotel suite.
2. He thought she was a journalist because somehow no alarm bells went off during the interview when she repeatedly put her hand on his knee or giddily told him, “I really feel like Melania right now.”
3. Alone in the hotel bedroom, Giuliani got more handsy than was strictly necessary.
4. In the best possible interpretation of the end of the encounter, Giuliani should probably refrain from tucking in his shirt when he’s in the same room with other people.
There’s nothing in the film that proves Giuliani’s intentions, and there are enough places where the audio and editing could have been manipulated to make the encounter seem creepier than it actually was—I haven’t even gotten into the ominous music—that it would be unwise to draw a definitive conclusion that Giuliani was attempting to seduce Tutar. (It may be relevant to note here that the 76-year-old and his third wife divorced last year, and that he has a girlfriend.)
On the other hand, there are enough unedited shots of Giuliani being creepy that it seems fair to conclude that he can be kind of creepy. We won’t know for sure what happened unless Sacha Baron Cohen releases the raw, unedited sound and video of the complete interview. If he does, you can count on two things: Partisans on both sides will scour the footage looking for clues to Giuliani’s behavior, and I won’t be one of them. There’s only so much Giuliani footage one man can take.
Update, Oct. 22, 2020, at 10 p.m.: Borat has responded to Giuliani on Twitter: