“I want to share the foul language of Cantonese, because it is the true essence of Cantonese culture,” Pang Ho-Cheung writes of “Vulgaria,” his low-budget, semi-improv comedy. “I conjured up the concept of this crazy comedy purely in Cantonese to save Cantonese,” which is being supplanted by the mainland’s Mandarin. “This film’s budget was low and the preparation was rushed. I shot the entire film in twelve days.” Infectious comedy ensues when a veteran Chinese movie producer struggles to finance a soft-core super-production, “Confessions of Two Concubines” in punchy, cheeky satire. Triads, language barriers of Cantonese colloquialisms, and raunchy comedy on Subject A and moviemaking follow. Pang’s earlier “AV” and “Love in the Buff” reportedly trafficked in the same genre-straddling free-for-all, but shambling dialogue and eye-rolling performances are “Vulgaria”‘s mixed assets. “Pubic hair is strange!” the producer exclaims, explaining that it serves the same function as a film producer, reducing friction between bodies. What Pang describes as “explosive vulgarity” is the source of most of the comedy: by tradition, Hong Kong censors don’t permit this level of language. The volume of genial filth is weirdly funny itself, especially when Cantonese-speaking gangsters try to make linguistic points over dinner to Hong Kong filmmakers: “How the fuck can ‘mule pussy’ mean mule pussy?” (Perhaps a “Clerks II” homage, despite the end title, “No animals were sexually aroused, violated or harmed in the production of this film.”) It’s not giving away too much to say the last line of the movie is “Fuck you!” and also that it earns a warm laugh. 93m. (Ray Pride)
“Vulgaria” opens Friday at River East. A trailer and an interview with Pang are below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.