The fact that filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia has yet to become one of the hottest directors in the world remains one of cinema's great mysteries. In Spain, de la Iglesia has steadily built a cult following since making the transition from cartoonist to filmmaker over fifteen years ago. But here in the United States, the only two films of the director's that have managed to gather any sort of following have been Acción Mutante (a.k.a. Mutant Action) and El Día de la Bestia (a.k.a. The Day of the Beast), and neither film has managed to catapult de la Iglesia to the ranks of directors like Guillermo del Toro or Peter Jackson, which is where he belongs. In 2005 de la Iglesia's El Crimen Ferpecto (a.k.a. The Perfect Crime, or The Ferpect Crime--depending on who you ask), made its way across the U.S. playing film festivals and arthouses, bringing the promise of the director finally being "discovered." Unfortunately, the film never found the success it richly deserved, and the result was that one of the best--if not the best--comedies of that year went largely unseen.
Inspired to a large extent by director Roger Corman's 1964 adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's Masque of the Red Death, The Perfect Crime is a brilliant comedy that firmly establishes de la Iglesia as one of the brightest directors working in film. It is both a stunning visual masterpiece, thanks in no small part to José Moreno's cinematography, and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to a script by de la Iglesia and his writing partner Jorge Guerricaechevarría. A wonderful mix of dark, social satire and physical humor, the film transcends language barriers and cultural differences, establishing the film both in 2005 during its theatrical run, and now, during its DVD release, as one of the best comedies of the past few years.
Set primarily inside a huge department store, the film stars Guillermo Toledo as Rafael, a hotshot salesman in the women's department who has a storewide reputation as a master cocksman with a taste for the finer things in life. "I would rather die than live an ordinary life," explains Rafael, who has sexually serviced his most beautiful co-workers. Rafael aspires to be floor manager, a position in his world that is tantamount to being a king. But when his arch rival, Don Antonio (Luis Varela), gets the position, Rafael's world spins out of control. During a volatile confrontation, Don Antonio is accidentally killed. Lourdes (Mónica Cervera), a homely co-worker who has long pined for Rafael, covers up the crime and uses her knowledge as leverage to blackmail him into becoming her lover. Rafael gives in Lourdes' demands, which become increasingly demanding as she becomes corrupted by the power she wields over him. At first it is bad enough that he must sleep with her, but soon Lourdes begins to exert her power on the job, forcing Rafael to fire all the beautiful ladies that surround him, and replace them with a cadre of homely women. But when Rafael begins making demands of marriage and children, Rafael's sanity reaches a breaking point. With the encouragement of Don Antonio's ghost prodding him along, Rafael begins to plot the demise of Lourdes.
A student of John Ford's westerns, cartoons and comic books, de la Iglesia has proclaimed that Alfred Hitchcock was his mother and Roman Polanski his brother. And while it might be difficult to prove actual blood relations to either famed filmmaker, their influences permeate de la Iglesia's films, as does the influence of acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar, who produced Acción Mutante. De la Iglesia draws deep from the well of inspiration, and while The Perfect Crime is clearly a product of an incredibly diverse and eclectic mix of influences, the influences are never the product itself. There are wonderful moments that may remind viewers of anything from Hitchcock to the Coen Brothers' finest work, to Paul Bartel's classic Eating Raoul, but de la Igelsia's film never fails to be a reflection of the director's own unique vision, and the talented cast and crew working with him.
The Perfect Crime is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is sharp and the colors beautifully vibrant. De la Iglesia brings his keen vision as a cartoonist to the screen with an incredible detail to color and design, which makes the films a visual treat.
The Perfect Crime is presented Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish with optional English subtitles.
There is a brief Making of featurette that offers a few brief glimpses at some of the more interesting scenes, and how they were put together, but overall it feels more like an after-thought. Co-writers de la Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría provide an audio commentary (in Spanish, presented with English subtitles) that can prove to be problematic, but is ultimately worth listening to. The problem is that paying attention to what is happening on screen, while reading subtitles that often have nothing to do with what's happening on screen, can get a bit overwhelming. Ultimately, however, de la Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría deliver what amounts to an insightful and deadpan commentary. Guerricaechevarría explains that Rafael is a throwback to the anti-heroes of 1970s cinema. "We wanted a completely negative character as the leading man," he says. Meanwhile, de la Iglesia says nearly every location is his interpretation of the inside of the human brain. You're best bet for listening to the audio commentary is to make sure you've already watched the film a few times, so you are very familiar with what is going on.
The Perfect Crime is one of the best comedies I've seen in the last five years. It holds up to multiple viewings, and director de la Iglesia layers so much detail into every scene, that you can find something new every time you watch it. If you are put off by subtitled films (aside from the fact there's really no hope for you), you can rest assured that The Perfect Crime is easy to follow, and the comedy is broad enough, and slapstick enough that it can still be enjoyed by those with an aversion to reading.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]