Los Angeles Times

August 26, 2005

'El Crimen Perfecto'
Women are on his shopping list, but he's buying a comeuppance.

'El Crimen Perfecto'
(Vitagraph Films)

By Kevin Thomas, Times Staff Writer

The Spanish have been masters of sly black comedy, and "El Crimen Perfecto" (The Perfect Crime) is a splendid example. It has to do with the comeuppance of a Madrid department store salesman (Guillermo Toledo) who aspires to an elegant lifestyle commensurate with his appearance and manner. When a floor manager drops dead, Toledo's Rafael is confident he will replace him — and that it will be only a matter of time before he has a seat on the store's board of directors.

Meanwhile, Rafael has it pretty good. Not only is he head of the women's clothing and accessories department, but after hours he has his way with his beautiful and eager staffers. Rafael may have looks and charm to spare, but when it comes to his longed-for promotion, he is quietly outmaneuvered by the middle-aged, rug-wearing Don Antonio (Luis Varela). A perverse twist of fate later lands Rafael the position he so coveted but places him at the mercy of Lourdes (Mónica Cervera), a perfume saleswoman so homely Rafael doesn't even know her name. Lourdes has worshiped Rafael from afar for so long and has been so totally unnoticed by him that the sudden power unhinges her.

Rafael quickly realizes that desperate measures are required if he is to escape living in hell on Earth.

Álex de la Iglesia and his co-writer Jorge Guerricaechevarría are gratifyingly clever in the intricate and hilarious way in which they work through Rafael's dilemma. Rafael may be a classic case of pride going before a fall, but he really doesn't deserve a life sentence with the deranged Lourdes, especially since his predicament has given him a crash course in humility. The film takes on larger implications when Rafael also becomes aware of how people are conditioned by the media and popular culture to abhor homeliness to the extent that it becomes impossible to see beyond physical appearance to a person's inner value.

De la Iglesia is as skilled at sly storytelling as he is with actors, and Toledo displays a sense of humor that keeps Rafael sympathetic. Cervera has a less than perfect profile but knows that in Lourdes she has such a terrific part — one that allows her to trigger a rightly ambivalent response in the viewer — that it's worth looking as unattractive as possible. Varela, whose Antonio lives on in Rafael's imagination as a devil egging him on, heads a strong supporting cast. "El Crimen Perfecto" is perfectly delightful.

'El Crimen Perfecto'

MPAA rating: Unrated

Times guidelines: Adult themes and situations, some sexuality, some comic violence

A Vitagraph release. Director Álex de la Iglesia. Producers Roberto di Girolamo, Álex de la Iglesia, Juanma Pagazaurtundua, Gustavo Ferrada. Screenplay by Álex de la Iglesia, Jorge Guerricaechevarría. Cinematographer José L. Moreno. Editor Alejandro Lázaro. Music Roque Baños. Art directors José Arrizabalaga, Arturo Garcia Otaduly. In Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.

At the Landmark Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 281-8223, and Regal Edwards South Coast Village 3, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 540-1970.

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