There’s something about the words “Hong Kong sex comedy” that, for whatever reason, may not make your heart soar when you hear them. Especially a Hong Kong sex comedy named Vulgaria. But then you obviously haven’t seen Vulgaria. That it’s not awful is a triumph in itself – in fact, it’s pretty good. It’s a satire of the Chinese movie industry told through the eyes of To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To), a struggling movie producer in the thrall of Tyrannosaurus (Ronald Cheng), top dog in the Guangxi Triad chapter, visiting over from the mainland. Tyrannosaurus has a very singular vision; he knows what he wants and what he wants, he gets. During a dinner of bizarre dishes (including cat), he pitches his idea to To – a remake of a 1976 porn film, Confessions of a Concubine, starring the original cast. We follow To’s madcap story as he navigates between awkward and hysterical social situations, chases, and sexual misdaventures.
This unique pitch is made under similarly unique circumstances – Tyrannosaurus refuses to fund the film until To and his friend have sex with a mule. It’s not exactly clear why this is so important, but it is. All To knows afterwards is that he must have had sex with the mule, because Tyrannosaurus has agreed to fund the film. His proviso, that the original star of the film, Miss Cheung, should also be in it, falls on deaf ears. Sensibly, she refuses to performed naked at her advanced age. The way that the film winds its way through these various stories without slipping up or appearing to go too far shows the level of control that Pang appears to have.
The title, Vulgaria, is emblematic of the ethos of the film as a whole. The characters swear their way through every sentence, and when not talking are scratching themselves in various unmentionable places. When To meets Miss Cheung in the restaurant, the way that she eats her food while she is talking adds a whole other level of humour to an already funny scene, providing depth to the character and another dimension to the scene as it does so. It’s these little touches that make this film more than just a “Hong Kong sex comedy”.
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