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  Ferpect Crime, The marriage is murder
Year: 2004
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
Stars: Guillermo Toledo, Monica Cervera, Luis Varela, Enrique Villen
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: From early works like Accion Mutante (1993) and The Day of the Beast (1996), Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia came across like an unholy fusion between a Peter Jackson-style splatterpunk hero and an outrageous social satirist a la Pedro Almodóvar. Recently, La Comunidad (2000) proved he could refine this mix into something quite potent, and now The Ferpect Crime delivers his most mainstream assault on bourgeois values. This savage black comedy opens on a training exercise where would-be salesman are bullied and berated. It’s a dog eat dog world. “Opportunities are out there waiting for”, declares our anti-hero, Rafael (Guillermo Toledo). “If you see it, grab it.” To prove his point he strides up to a beautiful stranger on the street and beguiles her with a passionate kiss. Rafael is salesman in the women’s clothing section of department store Yeyo’s. He’s a cocksure, aggressive alpha-male who stalks customers like a jungle cat, nails every sale and bangs a different, drop-dead gorgeous shopgirl every night. The girls flaunt themselves in dreamy slow-motion before his mind’s eye. Rafael fears nothing, except marriage. For him domesticity means death.

Rafael’s sales tactics backfire when he sells an expensive fur to a woman whose check bounces, thus blowing his chance for promotion. His rival, Don Antonio (Luis Varela) tries to fire him, but their argument turns nasty leaving Rafael with a dead body to dispose of (Interestingly for a black comedy, the killing is self-dense leaving Rafael a little less calculating and more sympathetic). Unfortunately there’s a witness, Lourdes (Monica Cervera), the homeliest shopgirl in the section and Rafael’s secret admirer. She obligingly hacks up the corpse and throws it into the furnace, but her assistance comes at a heavy price. From demanding non-stop, exhausting sex and later commitment, including quality time with her creepy family, Lourdes seizes control over Yeyo’s. After she traps Rafael into marriage, he realises his only way out is to conceive, what his cracked mind calls, ‘the ferpect crime’.

At this point, de la Iglesia’s well-intentioned satire comes undone through lack of conviction. It isn’t a case of the meek shall inherit the Earth. Lourdes proves as big a monster as Rafael. The film doesn’t subvert, but reinforces Rafael’s view of women as scheming harpies and marriage as a living hell. Lourdes’ family are a creepy, joyless bunch: a paranoid mother, an eight year old sister who insists she’s pregnant with her gym teacher’s baby, and her narcoleptic dad who may have lulled himself into a coma just to escape from it all. Even the cop on Rafael’s tail shudders recalling his own family (“I thank the lord every day for having escaped that nightmare”). In the absence of real insight, the film falls back on clichés like Don Antonio dispensing advice as a lumpy, green corpse and condemning the media’s obsession with beauty. After Lourdes replaces Yeyo’s stunning shopgirls with her homely friends sales go through the roof because, as Rafael claims: “Next to those freaks, customers felt like Grace Kelly.” That’s all very well, but how likely is it someone will buy expensive clothes from the poorly groomed and badly dressed? Satirists of the fashion industry often forget it isn’t just beautiful people, but style-conscious geeks who set the pace. Why else does Lourdes find fame at the end?

Brilliant camerawork and set design combine with some great comic acting from Guillermo Toledo and Monica Cervera, and de la Iglesia delivers a fiery set-piece worthy of Brian De Palma. However, there is a sense that neither protagonist deserves their finale fate. Rafael is drawn too sympathetic and Lourdes not sympathetic enough. As entertainment, The Ferpect Crime passes muster, but as satire it’s a damp squib.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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