Director Pang Ho-Cheung is one of Hong Kong cinema’s chameleons. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, he is well worth discovering. In just over a decade he has made quality and sophisticated dramas like Isabella and Beyond our Ken, which sit comfortably with his cunning and often ground breaking (and at times violent) satires such as You Shoot, I Shoot and Dream Home. His recent RomComs Love in a Puff and Love in the Buff are intelligent and entertaining examples of the genre.
In his new film, Vulgaria, Pang sets his sights low and doesn’t deviate with his aim, but at the same time providing one of the funnier comedies from Hong Kong this year. The story unfolds around a Q&A session at a Hong Kong university which has low-budget film producer To Wai-Cheung (Chapman To) talking up his latest picture, a remake of a notorious soft-core porn flick from the 1970s. Initially, the original star Susan “Yum Yum” Shaw was cast as the lead, but at sixty-plus years of age she is soon replaced by Canto starlet Tsai Ka-Yan (Dada Chan) known throughout Southern China as the “Popping Candy” girl.
For a Category 3 exploitation movie, Vulgaria is an amiable romp through the ups and downs of adult film production in contemporary Hong Kong. Interestingly, it doesn’t shy away from showing organised crime in the Canto film industry, Japanese actors working in Chinese films and the almost rabid commercialism of selling sex in Hong Kong’s media. What Pang does cannily avoid is explicit onscreen sex and the sadism found in most Category 3 movies.
I wouldn’t say Vulgaria is family fare but its target audience seems to be somewhat broader than the usual exploitation demographic.