Crimen Ferpecto, El

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/02/05 00:25:13

"The strangest and funniest black comedy in a while"
5 stars (Awesome)

God knows there have been plenty of movies over the years about hapless guys who commit one little crime in order to better their own existence, only to find their lives spiraling out of control as they are driven to commit even more criminal activities in order to keep the original one from being discovered. However, not since the Coen Brothers burst upon the scene have I seen one as wildly stylish and flamboyantly entertaining as Alex de la Iglesia’s “El Crimen Ferpecto.” It follows the standard outlines of the genre, of course, but de la Iglesia throws so many hilarious twists and turns into the mix that you sit there and watch things unfold with equal amounts of astonishment over the audaciousness of the story and amazement at how easily he spins his convoluted tale to it jaw-dropping and completely logical conclusion.

The hapless hero this time around is Rafael Gonzalez (Guillermo Toledo), a rakish stud who runs the women’s clothing section of a large Madrid department store as his own personal fiefdom. On the job, his slick looks and smooth patter are just the thing required to separate customers from their bank accounts. Off the job, he uses his run of the store as a way to seduce the never-ending army of comely clerks under his command (the kind of drop-dead gorgeous women whose luxurious hair is always blowing seductively–even indoors) after store hours. The only thing left to complete his life is to be named floor manager of the entire store. Unfortunately, he comes up just short in the sales contest meant to decide the position and he loses to the schlumpy menswear dealer Don Antonio (Luis Varela), who doesn’t hesitate to immediately demote his hated rival to the work usually done by trainees. When Rafael snaps at the customer who cost him the contest, Don Antonio fires him, there is a struggle and Rafael kind of accidentally kills him.

In a panic, Rafael decides to burn the body in the downstairs incinerator in order to cover up the crime. He leaves the body to find something to chop it up with but when he returns, the corpse is gone. The next day, the police are investigating Don Antonio’s disappearance and Rafael finds a note that informs him that the body is in a safe place and that he and the writer need to meet. It turns out that the author of the note is Lourdes (Monica Cervara), the store’s lone ugly duckling who also nurses a powerful crush of Rafael. She offers to help dispose of the body and provide him with an air-tight alibi as long as he does some things for her–minor things like replacing all the babes with plainer girls (an idea that actually increases business) and becoming Lourdes’s lover. Rafael agrees and figures he can finesse his way out but every attempt backfires and, feeling Lourdes’s noose growing tighter around his neck, he finds himself driven to increasingly desperate lengths to save his own skin.

To explain his efforts and how they succeed or fail would be to destroy a lot of the fun to be had in the screenplay co-written by de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricasechevarria. However, I will say that the script manages to work in such oddities as a wall-eyed detective, an ambush marriage proposal on live television, a proposal for something called Clown Fashion which is exactly what it sounds likes, a sequence on a Ferris Wheel that looks like a direct homage to Alfred Hitchcock (right down to the deliberately dodgy rear-projection work) and the unexpected appearances of Don Antonio in a manner that suggests that “An American Werewolf in London” was another key influence. Now anyone can throw in a bunch of weirdo details into a screenplay but de la Iglesia the director puts them together in such a way that they come across as logical extensions of the story instead of feeling like pointlessly colorful distractions. More importantly, even though the film is essentially a bloody farce at its core, de la Iglesia is careful to maintain his nutty tone (especially in the performances from Cervara and Toledo) without completely slipping over into cartoonish buffoonery.

Perhaps because he is Spanish, tells outrageous stories and has a fondness for oddball beauties (while Cervara, as seen here, might not be fashion-magazine material, there is a strange sexiness to her, especially in the scenes in which she lets her inner psycho come to the surface), Alex de la Iglesia has been compared in some quarters to fellow countryman Pedro Almodovar. Frankly, this is an unfair comparison as de la Iglesia’s work is far more entertaining and focused and I would gladly take this single film over the entirety of Almodovar’s increasingly tiresome output. Although it is probably not going to get an American release much beyond the art-house ghetto of the big cities, “El Crimen Ferpecto” is definitely worth seeking out for viewers looking for a film with a lot of style and energy, a cheerfully black sense of humor and what is easily the most twisted meeting-the-parents scene to be shown in a movie since Henry encountered the man-made chickens in “Eraserhead.”

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