El Crimen Perfecto
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia. Starring Guillermo Toledo, Mónica Cervera, Luis Varela, Fernando Tejero, Enrique Villen, Javier Gutiérrez, Kira Miró, Rosario Pardo. (2004, NR, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 23, 2005
This crazy black comedy, which is set mostly in a Madrid department store, is fun without ever becoming truly hilarious. Rafael (Toledo) is the manager of the women’s clothing department, and he’s in mortal competition with Don Antonio (Varela) the manager of the menswear department, to be promoted as the Yeyo’s floor manager. Rafael loves his job. In fact, he exists for two reasons alone: to make love to as many women as he can and to sell them articles of clothing. He runs his department as though he were the maestro of a beauty contest: all the saleswomen are chic and pert, and ever ready for an after-hours assignation in one of the dressing rooms or bedroom suites on display. But then an accidental death occurs and Rafael disposes of the body but, as a result, becomes blackmailed into marriage by the store’s homeliest employee, Lourdes (Cervera). The rest of the movie grows increasingly absurd as Rafael suffers the end of his bachelorhood and all life’s smooth sailing that had previously been his. Rafael has been such a self-smitten jerk that there’s much enjoyment to be had from witnessing his comeuppance. And Lourdes’ plans are so dark and focused that the character continues to surprise throughout. Yet cult director De la Iglesia’s attempt at "normal" comedy fare does not compare well with his earlier, more outrageous and absurd larks. (The Alamo Drafthouse Downtown is currently running a four-part De la Iglesia retrospective.) El Crimen Perfecto plays like it’s Almodóvar lite, and its last act absurdities try too desperately to amuse and sadly fall flat. Still, in its lighter moments, the film draws the sort of laughs that come from its dark social situations. A note on the title: Variously referred to as El Crimen Ferpecto and El Crimen Perfecto, the former maladroit title refers to a small moment in the film in which Rafael notices that typo on a video-store label of the Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder, which was released as The Perfect Crime in Spain. Hitchcock and Almodóvar this film isn’t, but it’s a worthwhile and fairly amusing effort.