Warning. This review contains sentences and paragraphs that some readers may find poorly executed. Vulgaria explicitly explains from the start (though doesn’t explicitly show) that by watching it, you may be heading towards potentially offensive territory. But this is, of course, part of its fun. Sex and celluloid combine to offer a comedy that shows us what is acceptable and what is not, even if that involves the screen melting away at inopportune moments…
Vulgaria is about the filmmaking industry and its processes as depicted by the stories of financially bereft producer To (Chapman To), who is currently addressing a group of students as a university guest interviewee. His audience are asking increasingly awkward questions about elements of his surprisingly extreme tale of film financing. As a producer, money is his issue and he has more needs than most. Not only has he had trouble finding financing for his latest film but he also needs to find a huge amount of money for an alimony payment to his ex-wife, lawyer Tsang Lai-fun (Kristal Tin) if he is to be allowed to see his daughter. To finds a potential source of investment in the form of Brother Tyrannosaurus (Ronald Cheng) who, it turns out, is part of a Guangxi triad. But he will only provide the cash if To complies with his bizarre social demands that include To munching on extremely specialised cuisine and engaging in amour that is distinctly inappropriate. Brother Tyrannosaurus wishes to fund a Cat III sequel – Confessions of Two Concubines – which will also have the benefit of re-introducing the world to famed Cat III star Shaw Yin Yin (or Yum Yum Shaw as seen here and credited as herself), who left a lasting impression on Tyrannosaurus in his younger days. Filming could require a body double, as Yum Yum is a little concerned about her ageing figure, and To thinks he has found the right girl (in more ways than one) in the shapely, orally enthusiastic figure of part-time model, the nom-de-sex monikered Popping Candy (Dada Chan). Sweet.
Vulgaria is a comedy that comments on both the filmmaking industry and the porn industry in a way that is funny, mischievous and, occasionally, just a little bit sweet. It shares a similar approach to Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), indeed it could almost be viewed as a Smith comedy classic for Hong Kong cinephiles with an adoration for Cat III naughtiness which, in this case, is restrained by the content. (Category III is the Hong Kong equivalent of 18 rated films.) There is even some equine erotic emphasis in the humour that finds a place here in a different but no less relevant manner to that in Smith’s Clerks 2 (2006). The scenarios are hilarious but not explicitly so, and the whole comes across as thoroughly acceptable, if amusingly wayward. Unless you have a penchant for unusual oral activities or re-imagining the character Muffin the Mule in a totally different context, that is. But the relationship between To and his daughter, who retains her faith in his filmmaking abilities, despite the madness of the production spiralling out of control around him, ensures that Vulgaria remains naughty, but nice.
‘Making of’ extras can be a variable addition to a DVD or Blu-Ray release but the documentary included here is very welcome, as it shows the background context with the filmmakers’ commenting on their own filmmaking stories, particularly in developing the script (telling us what they could get away with), together with some shots that place scenes from the film in a different context. It’s informative and funny – a practical and amusing ‘making of’ documentary of a film that is about… a making of.