The Ferpect Crime
2004Director: Álex de la Iglesia
Cast: Guillermo Toledo, Mónica Cervera, Luis Varela
eading the press kit, the impression you get of Álex de la Iglesia (director of La Comunidad, 800 Bullets and now Ferpect Crime, or simplified for American audiences into The Perfect Crime) is of someone starting to come unhinged: “With age, I tend lose my sense of reason,” says Iglesia, “or maybe it’s the opposite: everything that surrounds me is degenerating grotesquely.” He concludes: “If our heads are going to be cut off, we might as well not lose the smile”—which is a decent summary of the unflinching mood throughout Ferpect Crime. It’s concerned with weighty issues, but it’s (almost too) determined to make it excellent fun.
Iglesia has been referred to as the straight equivalent of Pedro Almodóvar (Bad Education, Talk to Her), but what these two directors have in common other than, uh, being Spanish, seems negligible. For one, Iglesia plays the narrative at 2.5 times the speed of a filmmaker like Almodóvar. And he won’t subtly develop a theme like Almodóvar either … if the movie is supposed to be about something, like say, rabid positivist go-gettism, the character will face us and tell us as much.
E.g.: Rafael (Guillermo Toledo), while power-walking the busy streets of Madrid, addresses the camera to inform us “I never hold back. If I like what I see, I grab it. That’s why people are unhappy. They’re surrounded by things they like, but they won’t go after them.” He then strides onto a bustling zebra crossing, hooks limbs with the el chica he’d spotted while talking to us and they both get straight to the point—pashing fervidly as pedestrians stream about them, unphased.
"I don't know how to tell you this, but you're freaking out the customers..."
Yep, this is the kind of movie Ferpect Crime is—which is perfectly fine—but I just thought you should know, is all. Because going into this movie thinking “like Almodóvar, but straight!” is really no way to appreciate it.
Iglesia’s background is as a cartoonist, and it couldn’t be more evident than in Ferpect Crime. The production is ribald and hyperactive. Things exist as they might in comic squares, in super-stylized poses for a few moments, like the introductions of the saleswomen (of the ladieswear department Rafael manages)—bottom-lit and windstrewn, transcending escalators toward us dreamily. And stocktake-hungry shoppers possess a larger-than-life ferocity (maybe only just), flooding the department store like frightened rats (portentous and truly scary—these people must be the stunt department, or dedicated extras). Thus it’s made clear from early: this movie exists very much inside the consciousness of its lead, Rafael. Or at least someone pretty familiar with him. One gets the feeling Ferpect Crime is a particularly personal project for Iglesia.
Not sure what's going on here, but these people obviously have problems with impulse control...
Rafael has streamlined his life around his position as the ladieswear manager in the gauzy, cavernous department store where the majority of the film transpires. He perceives himself as master of his domain—one of elegance, good taste and no-strings sex. It can never remain that way of course, and after a doozy crime is committed, a blackmailing plot ensues as Lourdes (Mónica Cervera) (the solitary saleswoman in the store who is wholly underwhelmed by the expectations of her position) comes blazing into his life, representing every repellent archetype Rafael had successfully supplanted until now. Lourdes’ vision is set on something completely apart from, or beyond Rafael’s gated existence, and she’s willing to go to any length toward its realization.
Ferpect Crime is sort of a dark, bawdy comedy-of-errors—but is packing something extra to most movies in this vein. The film has got one big, quirky eyebrow-raise to direct at gender roles, and at how they inform consumer culture as well as being informed by it. Also, gratefully, we are spared the chauvinist-learns-sensitivity / girl-learns-to-lower-her-expectations resolution. Iglesia is deft in his indictment of both leads.
Beyond all this though, the movie really just wants to have fun—and it does, assuredly. It looks really great; masterfully assembling a lively array of visual material. The humour works—and though threatening to lose itself in the third act, manages to duck its head back just in time … until the decapitation that is the film’s ending, which will leave some heads smiling, but perhaps not others.
By: Kris Allison
Published on: 2005-08-17