New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Vulgaria

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Vulgaria
Pang Ho-cheung, 2012
Hong Kong | 90 minutes

Opening Night! In person: director Pang Ho-cheung!

Described as “astonishingly filthy,” “outrageous,” and “displaying a reckless abandon in mentioning genitals,” Pang Ho-cheung’s showbusiness satire pushes good taste as far as it can go, and then keeps on going. What’s most astonishing about this lewd, crude, and hilariously dirty film is that it achieves all its shocking effects with nothing more than dialogue. They say there’s no business like show business, but Pang shocks us not by showing, but by telling. Shot in just 12 days, on a microscopic budget, this porno Apocalypse Now was written by the actors, director, and screenwriter as they went along, taking the audience with them into their heart of comedy darkness.

Chapman To plays a producer invited to a “sharing session” with a herd of lazy film students who claim that films don’t need producers. What does a producer even do? “Well,” he says, losing his patience, “a producer is like pubic hair: he reduces the friction between the financiers and the director.” And then he’s off, relating the epic story of his attempt to remake the 70’s Shaw Brothers sexploitation movie I Want More! starring its original lead, Susan Shaw Yin-yin, now in her 60’s, and in desperate need of a body double in the form of Popping Candy (played, in a career-redefining performance, by Dada Chan). After Chapman agrees to give up his visitation rights to his beloved daughter in order to secure a loan from his ex-wife, he approaches a freaky triad boss named Brother Tyrannosauraus, who forces him to (maybe? probably?) make love to his “mule wife” for his loan.

More than just a bunch of dirty jokes, this is the kind of fast-paced verbal comedy someone in 1930’s Hollywood might have made if they’d been allowed. It’s a movie that takes no prisoners. Chapman To’s desire to debase himself for money is a commentary on a Hong Kong where some people are all too ready to do anything for a buck and the film also pauses to talk about how the recent hit film Sex and Zen 3D torpedoed the careers of its lead actors while also bringing them great fame. There are even a few words about Hong Kong film producers and their co-dependent relationship with Mainland money men. Fast, furious, funny, and ultimately leaving you with a serious buzz, by the time Vulgaria is over you’ll want to marry a sweet-eyed, tiny-hooved mule wife of your very own.

Series: New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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