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      Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, and Pamela Anderson. In English, Hebrew, Armenian,and Romanian. Rated 14A.

      In what was possibly the best SCTV episode ever, the disreputable station was hijacked by Soviet network CCCP1, which mixed programs like What Fits Into Russia? and Tibor’s Tractor with a steady drumbeat of anti-Uzbek PSAs (“Who’s draining the lifeblood of the people? Uzbeks”).

      Who knows what the citizens of the Central Asian country Uzbekistan did to incur the wrath of a fictional Politburo? And no one, other than Sacha Baron Cohen, can fully understand why the Kazakh get the same treatment, only worse, at the hands of the man who created Ali G and the gay French race-car driver in last summer’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But Cohen, abetted by director Larry Charles, who helped write and produce Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, makes a meal of Borat Sagdiyev, a profoundly ignorant, deeply sexist, and determinedly anti-Semitic news reporter from Kazakhstan who nonetheless projects a kind of appealing, and appalling, innocence.

      Borat’s mission here is slightly more complicated than in his self-contained bits on Da Ali G Show. According to the film, in some other countries the title reads: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and who can argue with that? So although we don’t get to see him enjoining rednecks to sing along with that old country-and-eastern hit “Throw the Jew Down the Well”, or marvelling at women being allowed to vote, there is a distinct through line as he heads west from New York City to find Pamela Anderson and make her his bride.

      Along the way, accompanied at times by bearlike producer Azamat Bagatov (American actor Ken Davitian) and at other times by an actual bear, he has plenty of memorable encounters with Americans. Sometimes he is fully clothed.

      Highlights include etiquette lessons followed by a visit with genteel southerners who discover how little Borat understands about indoor plumbing, and his gallant attempt to sing the national anthem at a Virginia rodeo. Initially, the rural types cheer his presong declaration of fealty to George W. Bush and his “war of terror”, but by the time he’s exhorting the compassionate conservatives to “drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq”, well, they’re not sure they want to go quite that far.

      Most of Cohen’s humour is subversive in that manner; it’s a comedy of discomfort, and he undermines your resistance to his social satire through shock and disorientation. Sometimes it appears that there’s no base instinct to which he won’t succumb; I mean, it’s difficult to read much complexity into his inclination to let a fat man shove his scrotum in our ignorant hero’s mustachioed face. Clearly, he will do anything to make you laugh, and there is something strangely liberating about that—even if he risks liberating your lunch in the process.