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Vulgaria
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by Jay Seaver

"As delightful as it is crude - and the title ain't kidding."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Vulgaria" would certainly be an example of writer/director Pang Ho-Cheung's incredible recent productivity if it were nothing else; it's his second film of the year, shot in a ridiclous twelve days. Of course, it is something else - gut-bustingly funny, in wonderfully rude fashion.

To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To) is a Hong Kong film producer, though not exactly of the highest caliber of productions - indeed, he basically makes low-budget "Category III" junk. A friend has invited him to lecture at his college, and after describing his job with an unusual metaphor, he recounts what he did on his latest project to the students, from its funding by Guangxi triad boss Brother Tyrannosaur (Ronald Cheng) - at a dinner with nasty cuisine and even more unappetizing after-dinner entertainment - who wants to remake Confessions of a Concubine with aging original star Susan "Yum Yum" Shaw (Susan "Yum Yum" Shaw). On top of that, To's got a withering parent-teacher conference at his daughter Jacqueline's school, an ex-wife (Kristal Tin) threatening to cut off contact with said daughter, and an unhelpful assistant. Ditzy model and aspiring actress "Popping Candy" (Dada Chan) - who is all too willing to hit the casting couch - may be the most sensible person involved.

Here's hoping Pang hasn't had to go through too much of what he depicts in order to get his own movies made - well, maybe the fun bits. The movie certainly plays like a collection of anecdotes from the screen business, with each maybe not being filthier than the last - the dinner meeting with Brother Tyrannosaur, the dishes rejected from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for being too gross, and the barnyard animals is tough to top - but still joyously crude. Audiences will learn some unfortunate Cantonese near-homophones, how Candy got her name, and just why a movie producer is like pubic hair. To will occasionally break the fourth wall if that's the best way to get a gag across, and Pang doesn't worry too much about a particularly rigid structure.

Appearances can be deceiving, though - the script by Pang, Lam Chiu-wing, and Sum Luk-yee (with plenty of seat-of-the-pants work, as it wasn't finished at the start of the quick shoot) does have a story to tell, and does get most of the anecdotes to line up and build as running jokes or the seeds for telling (but not overblown) character bits. Or, sometimes, just goofy visual gags. It's put together well enough the keep a viewer laughing throughout even if one episode or two falls short.

The main constant is Chapman To; as the narrator he's in nearly every scene, and he does a great job of being the reasonably sane but also frantic character that everybody else plays off, while also doing his own silly stuff as a result of desperation. One of Hong Kong's busiest character actors, he proves a formidable everyman lead who amid all the goofy chaos can also show himself be truly crushed when dealing with his ex or likably sincere when getting a worried phone call from his daughter.

The rest of the cast is doing much more pure comedy as they rush in and out of the picture. Ronald Cheng, for instance, takes every opportunity available to make Brother Tyrannosaur bigger and weirder and makes it work, with Lam Suet acting as a boost. Dada Chan takes a promiscuous airhead with an unusual sexual technique and sells the jokes without making Candy a joke herself. Miriam Yeung (of Pang's Love in a Puff/the Buff) takes an extended cameo and spins gold, while the various actors playing themselves seem to enjoy Pang's unusual takes on the characters, so to speak.

"Vulgaria" is the sort of pure raunch one doesn't often see out of Hong Kong's respectable film industry - even those cheerfully potty-mouthed romantic comedies of Pang's seldom went for the really nasty punchline as he does here. That makes it an extra-special treat, because not only does this sort of gross-out humor seldom come out of the Chinas, but it seldom comes out this good even when more experienced people try it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23879&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/08/12 02:08:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2012 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

8/14/12 Tsang Lai Fun Awesome! Hilarious! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Sep-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Sep-2012


Directed by
  Ho-Cheung Pang

Written by
  Ho-Cheung Pang

Cast
  Chapman To
  Kristal Tin
  Simon Lui
  Ronald Cheng
  Susan Shaw Yin-yin



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