Vulgaria (2011)

6 Aug

Following the story of a seemingly doomed adult film production headed by a lecherous film producer To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To) and financed by a sexually eccentric mob boss (Ronald Cheng), Vulgaria’s (Dir. Pang Ho-cheung) central comedic conceit ends up being To’s struggle to remember whether or not he engaged in bestiality during a particularly drunken night of financial negotiations. Given such material, Vulgaria still manages to feel too safe and clean somehow, dampening its own brand of metatextual scatology under a melodramatic and uninteresting child-custody subplot, and —bestiality notwithstanding— an altogether too-traditional approach to gender and sexuality.

Hailed as the “John Waters of Hong Kong” within the promotional material of this year’s New Zealand Film Festival, Pang Ho-cheung and his team have ended up producing a film much more Porky’s than Pink Flamingos. Vulgaria is the male-oriented sex farce at its most archetypical, save perhaps for a smaller scale of sexual exploits and deviance, and its intermittent use of metatextual humour addressed directly to the audience through its characters’ commentary on film —a clever touch that gets progressively ignored as the plot continues.

Vulgaria’s open-armed embrace of largely formulaic storytelling shouldn’t mean that it fails at being either funny or gross though —it’s certainly both. Just don’t expect anything actually subversive or shocking. This is particularly true if you are already a fan of scatological humour, sex farces, or just plain weird movies. Really, the average episode of Ren and Stimpy is more disturbing and risqué.


By Camilo Diaz-Pino


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