Details: 90 mins, China, People's Republic of,
Synopsis: A film producer (Pang Ho-cheung) recounts his experiences remaking a soft-core film from the '70s. In a series of fictional vignettes, we see the producers seek funding from gangsters and even his own ex-wife, persuade the original film's lead actress to reprise her role, as well other satirical scenarios.
Gross-out comedy goes for broke.
With barely a dull moment, the film goes from one hilarious outrage to another
If you spend any time watching current Hong Kong movies, it’s not long before you come across the near omnipresent Chapman To. With Vulgaria, director Pang Ho-Cheung takes advantage of To’s precise comedic skills and his occasional status as a producer (Trivial Matters) and puts them in one film.
Made quickly, with shameless cheapness, the crazy Vulgaria opens with a warning that the film “is classified as a vulgar comedy” and suggests the easily offended should leave immediately. The film finishes – almost – with the reassurance that “no animals were sexually aroused on this film”.
Vulgaria centres on a movie producer called To (played by Chapman To – notice some self-referentiality here?), who is being interviewed on stage by a university lecturer in front of a student audience. Following a memorable introduction in which Producer To likens the producer’s role to a thick thatch of pubic hair, most of what he divulges to the audience about the art of producing stems from his traumatic involvement with a Guangzhou gangster (Ronald Cheng) who wanted to invest in a remake of his favourite erotic film, Confession of a Concubine.
After offending the violent, thin-skinned gangster about his dinner offerings (Hong Kongers often stigmatise the cuisine choices of Guangzhou, in the same way as Westerners do about Chinese food), To agrees to make the erotic film. The main problem is the gangster insists the film feature the original star Susan Shaw (sending up her Shaw Brothers legacy unmercifully), who is now in her sixties. The producer’s protest only upsets the gangster further and the only way he can escape with his life (and the funding money) is to have sex with a mule. Let me clarify there is no actual on-screen sex with the mule, but audiences will have so many tears of laughter in your eyes you may not be actually sure about that.
With barely a dull moment, the film goes from one hilarious outrage to another as producer To tries to be a good father to his daughter (really!) and meets up with a seductive sexpot and wannabe actress who goes by the name of Popping Candy (Fiona Sit). Popping Candy’s major skill is an enhanced form of fellatio. I mention this not for prurient interest but because a major plot point – without which the film could not reach its hilarious (ahem) climax – would not happen without Popping Candy’s talent.
Pang Ho-cheung shoots the film in a free-wheeling, seat-of-the pants style. Everyone gives a good performance (Miriam Yeung steps in for a cameo as a sexual harassment lawyer), but it is To’s show from beginning to end. His background in TV comedy and radio is evident in every scene and is most enjoyable when he breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the film’s audience. It’s all a big gag and you can either be in on it or not.
Watch Films Online
Films on SBS TV
SBS Film Guide to...
Celebrate Australian filmmaking with this home-grown season. Starts May 25.
Land, Money and Power… Dig deep into Australia’s epic history of mining.
The Tony award-winner sings Broadway numbers and re-imagines modern tunes from Lady Gaga to Sting.