Unspeakable but watchable
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, September 28, 2012
The movie “Vulgaria” is not one for the kiddies. Then again, the description “for mature audiences” doesn’t seem right either. The Hong Kong comedy, a broad, cartoonish -- and decidedly filthy -- satire of moviemaking is as sophomoric as they come.
It’s also pretty funny, in an unapologetically over-the-top way.
Told in a series of flashbacks by a B-movie producer (Chapman To), the film charts the behind-the-scenes headaches involved in making what is known in Hong Kong as a Category III (or adults-only) film, beginning with the tricky issue of financing. The humiliation undergone by our hapless hero -- who, in an attempt to woo an unsavory investor (Ronald Cheng), submits to an act that cannot even remotely be described in a family newspaper -- will likely be a first for even seasoned veterans of grindhouse cinema.
A first and, hopefully, a last. Yes, I laughed at it, but I’m not proud of myself.
Give “Vulgaria” credit for honesty. The movie begins with an on-screen disclaimer that the film contains “high amounts of coarse language, adult themes, political incorrectness, discrimination and sexual situations.” That message -- which, if anything, understates the case -- is followed by a 10-second pause in which anyone who might have mistakenly wandered in from “The Master” can find his or her way back to the right theater.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Most, I suspect, will stay firmly planted in their seats, lured perhaps by the reputation of To, a genial comic actor known to Western audiences from the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy. He has an everyman charm that resonates, even when he’s doing the unspeakable.
As for the increasingly bizarre shenanigans revolving around the film-within-a-film -- a cheap sequel to something called “Confessions of a Concubine” that’s less period film than porno -- they’re extreme, to be sure. The unsubtle barbed comedy (by director and co-writer Pang Ho-Cheung) is also just familiar enough, to anyone who follows the trade papers, to seem aimed as much at Hollywood’s studios as Hong Kong’s.
Contains obscenity, crude humor and sexual situations.