According to the industry’s self-reflexive examinations, film is either the golden height of human imaginative endeavor or as profane and crazy as a meth-addicted stripper. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo casts filmmaking as a soft-focus bricolage of Art Deco robots, adventuresome orphans, vaulted ceilings, and soulful, tortured artists. By contrast, Pang Ho-cheung’s Vulgaria documents the industry with a catalog of insane, mule-fucking gangsters, sexagenarian soft-core actresses, inappropriate product placements, and Pop Rocks–augmented fellatio. Wai-cheung (Chapman To), a second-rate Hong Kong film producer, secures financing for a last-ditch, career-salvaging skin flick from a Cantonese gangster with quadrupedal sexual proclivities and fond memories of the previous century’s porn actresses. Meanwhile, Wai-cheung’s ex-wife is trying to restrict his access to their daughter; his improbably dumb assistant is suing him for sexual harassment, and his actress girlfriend might be making time with his film’s lead actor. The broadness of the film’s comedy might be largely attributable to the conventions of Hong Kong cinema, but to American audiences, the film has an exaggerated notion of its own raunchiness. Although bluntly transgressive, it never actually shows anything as gross as the bodily fluids splashed around in Farrelly Brothers movies—not a complaint—and many of the jokes, particularly with regard to the differences between citizens of Hong Kong and mainland China, are dependent upon familiarity with Asian culture. The framing device, in which Wai-cheung is a guest speaker in a college course for aspiring film producers (which, OK, whatever), becomes its own B storyline, concluding with a pretty good callback joke that emphasizes the film’s self-awareness.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 26, 2012