Friday, January 1, 2010

Crimen Ferpecto (2004, Iglesia)

Rating: ***

The 2004 black comedy, Crimen Ferpecto - merely my second exposure to the formidable talents of Álex de la Iglesia – struck me as a slightly lesser work than The Day of the Beast (1995). With a story not nearly as outrageous as the one used there (no cosmic importance to any of the characters’ actions in Crimen Ferpecto), the level of cartoon violence and wild slapstick simply had to go many-a-notch down – and I missed it.

While Iglesia invests a lot of skill into the presentation of his central character, Rafael (Gillermo Toledo), the long narrative build-up seems perfunctory and hollow, especially once measured against the sheer banality and faux-uplift of the final resolution (capitalism gets caned for perpetuating iconic stereotypes of beauty).

Rafael is a sex-emperor, ruling his small but glossy domain as a manager of a female-populated garment section at a Madrid department store. It is in presenting his ways with women-employees where the movie fails most: and in Iglesia, by “failure” I mean his going mild. His great ease with controlled cartoon cruelty (both physical and verbal) is subdued in those parts, even though the comic-routine prologue makes you hungry for it. It’s not until the last act, when frustrated Rafael connives an epic scheme to get rid of his presented-as-ugly wife, Lourdes (Mónica Cervera), that the film’s pulse starts pounding away.

Iglesia, while sharing many aesthetic affinities with Almdóvar (they both love glossy surfaces, highly saturated colors and outrageous, all-out dialogue), is very much his own guy. Leaning toward the spectacular, the macabre and the lurid, he nevertheless is a perfect coming-timing machine – and it’s the comedy that dominates all the other layers of his films.

I only wish Crimen Ferpecto felt less muzzled; what’s to blame is the structure, though, and not the filmmaker’s inability to bite.

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