1996, NR, 109 min. Directed by Arturo Ripstein. Starring Regina Orozco, Daniel Gimenez-Cacho, Marisa Paredes, Patricia Reyes Espindola, Julieta Egurrola, Rosa Furman.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 23, 1998
It's odd that this new film from popular Mexican director Ripstein wasn't scheduled for a Valentine's Day opening, seeing as its main concern is love and the torments thereof. Perhaps the distributor thought all those corpses might be a bit off-putting? Whatever. While essentially a remake of Leonard Kastle's cult classic The Honeymoon Killers, this stylish updating is bereft of the grainy, early-Seventies style of filmmaking that to my mind plagued the original and instead drenches itself in washes of golden, sepia-toned light, making it one of the most gorgeously lit and shot thrillers I've ever seen. Orozco is Coral, an overweight, manic-depressive, and desperately lonely nurse who abandons her two young children to be with Nicolas (Cacho), a smooth-talking, hairpiece-wearing schemer who travels around the backroads of Mexico bilking lonely widows out of their money. After Nicolas inadvisedly tries the scam on Coral, she tracks him down and promises to aid him in his life of petty grift if only he will love her and accept her for the nutcase she is, extra girth and all. Surprisingly, he does, and the two fall madly in love. Trouble arises when Coral becomes jealous of the women Nicolas encounters, and before long her desperate paranoia leads her to knock them off, one by one. Nicolas is horrified at this -- he's essentially a mild-mannered weasel -- but he bites his tongue in the name of love until he can take it no more. Half the time Deep Crimson feels like one of those inexplicably popular mid-afternoon foto-novelas on Univision, but the melodramatic aspects of Ripstein's film are overshadowed by the sheer audaciousness of both Orozco and Cacho, who ooze pathetic, jaundiced desperation at every available moment, and Ripstein's brilliant direction, which makes much of stunning set design and cinematography. For her part, Orozco is one of the most disturbing screen villainesses in some time. Simultaneously obese and mousy, her emotional gamut seems to run from pouting, childlike tantrums to seething rage to lovestruck adolescent horniness -- not the qualities most leading men look for in their companions. Cacho's timid, sensitive Nicolas, however, needs a hand mending his precious wig (it seems to fall apart every 20 minutes or so), and he's touched by this madwoman's obvious devotion to him, insane though it might be. It's a hellish ride all the way down the farthest reaches of obsession and petty theft, with dead floozies and (ay-yi-yi!) infanticide along the way. Ah, love....