Crimen Ferpecto/The Perfect Crime (2004)

Rafael was born into sales. Quite literally: his mother went into labor in one of Madrid's ritziest department stores, so naturally her son went into a life of labor as a salesman in the women's section of that very store. This job, uncoincidentally, provides him ample opportunity to exercise his two great (and related) talents: womanizing and convincing customers to spend money. When a management position (complete with job security and huge financial benefits) becomes available, Rafael battles with his nemesis, the toupee-sporting men's department clerk, for the job, only to lose it when he convinces a woman to spend above her means (her enormous check, which seemed to guarantee Rafael the job, bounces).

Of course, Rafael and his new boss immediately begin to fight (there is a disappointing sexual subtext here - Rafael's virile ability with the ladies is contrasted to the nemesis's frustrated homosexuality), and, during one of these fights, our "hero" accidentally kills him. In a panic, he tries to hide the body in the basement, but before he can burn it, the corpse disappears....

Rafael is played by Guillermo Toledo, who also starred in 2004's Only Human (which I reviewed here) as the Palestinian Rafi who falls in love with a Jewish girl and undergoes terrible comic contortions while being introduced to her family. Crimen Ferpecto shares a certain almost-surrealist zaniness with Only Human, and I appreciate this quality, but bright wackiness never raises these films above the level of very inventive but formulaic sitcoms. [I should note here that I consider unformulaic television comedy to be some of the world's most enjoyable art.]

One of the major imferpections of this particular film is its fascination with the psychology of machismo. I suppose in describing it that way, I am projecting what I hoped it would be: a comic dissection of how a playboy thinks and acts, and the entanglements that result from imperfect self-reflection. Perhaps this is too moralizing an approach to take to comedy; although I don't think, by any means, that comedy as a genre is exempt from the moral reflections of art, surely it (like any other genre) shouldn't be forced into moral arguments.

Nonetheless, it is uncomfortable that we are meant to (and do!) sympathize with Rafael as he becomes ensnared by a homely stalker who seems to symbolize all of womanhood, and with the many men who are trapped into an instant public marriage by wedding-hungry girlfriends on a popular and, I hope, fictional reality television show ("But honey," one befuddled mechanic says while the cameras swarm around him,"Isn't this a private decision?" His veiled and gowned beloved all but licks her chops in response.).

The film implies that a playboy's greatest fear is not death, pain, or imprisonment (all of which threaten Rafael for much of the movie), but rather the public humiliation of being linked to an ugly girl -- the humiliation of laughter and the control others have over him that this laughter denotes. Would that I could believe that this was a self-reflective comment on the nature of comedy, and the perils of being a dashing clown -- both themes the movie toys with -- but the script isn't quite witty enough to justify this type of winking analysis.

Amusing, but it might make your skin crawl for its macho enthusiasm.

Crimen Ferfecto / The Perfect Crime (2004)
dir. Àlex de la Inglesia