Sacha Baron Cohen brought his "Dictator" roadshow to the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, proving that the law of diminishing returns is just as applicable in Wadiya and in the South of France as it is in the United States.
First, Baron Cohen's character from "The Dictator," General Aladeen, was "sighted" on a yacht in the harbor cavorting with a bikini-clad woman while some "armed guards" stood by.
The most shocking thing about the episode/photo-op, which ended when the woman went below deck with Aladeen's "bodyguards," who then dumped a "body bag" overboard, is the identity of the female companion.
Then Aladeen showed up with his camel and snarled traffic on the Croisette. The highlight, from all reports, came when he fell off the camel.
All of this comes as "The Dictator" lands in theaters, where reviewers have been relatively kind but box-office prospects do not appear terribly sunny.
"It's a good thing the gags work, because this slight comedy … can barely be bothered with actual storytelling," wrote Alonso Duralde at TheWrap.
Then again, who needs storytelling when you’ve got publicity stunts? So we saw Baron Cohen attend the Oscars in full costume, and "spill" an urn containing the "ashes" of "Kim Jong Il" on Ryan Seacrest.
And we saw him "torture" Martin Scorsese on "Saturday Night Live," and "threaten" Matt Lauer's family on "The Today Show," and make anti-American cracks on every American television show that would have him.
And now he's taken the roadshow to France – where they hardly mind a few anti-American comments, where the Cannes organizers have even less of a sense of humor than the Oscar brass, and where genuine protests were stirred up two years ago by the film "Outside the Law," which dealt with French-Algerian tensions.
In his brief sojourn down the Croisette, reported the Telegraph, "General Aladeen" also stopped at a café and ordered two coffees – one for the camel, who didn't drink it. Then he went to a Ralph Lauren store and bought a scarf – again, for the camel.
"The Dictator," by the way, is not screening in the festival.
Baron Cohen made a previous appearance at Cannes in 2006, when he promoted his movie "Borat" by strutting down the beach in a lime-green mankini.
At least that one was funny, in a horrifying kind of way.