Film Review: Vulgaria (2012)

There’s nothing misleading about the title of Hong Kong comedy Vulgaria. The film gives its audience exactly what they are expecting: shamelessly tasteless humour.

The inappropriate jokes won’t be to everybody’s liking, and film buffs might disapprove of the narrative structure, but one suspects director-writer Ho-Cheung Pang wasn’t trying to create a cinematic masterpiece.

Vulgaria is more of a sketch comedy than a conventional motion picture. It follows the story of To (Chapman To Man-chak), a film producer with little money and even less luck, as he puts together a hopeless c-grade erotica named “Confessions of Two Concubines”. The narrative is conveyed through lengthy flashback episodes, sloppily interspersed during a lecture To is presenting to a class of wannabe filmmakers.

It doesn’t take long for the vulgarities to commence. A series of crude warning messages precede the first scene, which contains enough gratuitous swearing and pubic-hair jokes to already push the film into MA territory.

The following 90 minutes feels like the most politically incorrect game of bingo you’ll ever encounter. At every opportune moment, Pang sneaks in gags about erections, bestiality and every other taboo topic under the sun. There’s even a token scene in which the leading characters are served a banquet of unappetising delicacies. No prizes for guessing the punchline.

Not every joke hits the mark, but enough do. Audiences, for instance, should swallow the back story of Popping Candy’s (Dada Chan) moniker. The skit about To’s sexual harassment charges is also delightfully hilarious.

There are some satirical elements to the screenplay, with the film parodying the Hong Kong film industry and the ambiguous responsibilities of producers. But one would be foolish to expect a learned social commentary; Vulgaria is well and truly directed at the type of audiences who giggle at bodily function jokes.

Much of the film’s humour would be far too risqué for your average Hollywood farce. But Vulgaria pulls them off, thanks to its relentless desire to outrage the audience. Too often spoofball comedies try to offer the audience an enduring moral message. Vulgaria makes no such attempts. Yes, the relationship between To and his daughter is touching. But more than anything, every father-daughter conversation is a chance for Pang to squeeze in a few more irreverent jokes.

As such, Vulgaria is not the kind of film to see with your conservative grandparents. But otherwise, it’s is a fun afternoon’s entertainment, which should at least amuse – if not shock – most spectators.

Vulgaria is in Australian cinemas from 23 August through China Lion Films.

3 blergs

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