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Rafael (or Rafa, as his friends call him) is on top of the world, loving up the ladies, and shoe-in for department store manager. The department store and the ladies are Rafa's life. When men's department rival Don Antonio makes steals the management position and fires Rafa, there is a scuffle. In the scuffle Antonio is accidentally killed. Rafa finds help in his murder cover-up from the most unlikely source—Lourdes, a homely coworker who has pined after him for years. Lourdes now owns Rafa, and Rafa needs out. To get rid of her without revealing his involvement in the disappearance of Antonio he must plan the perfect crime.

Perfect Crime, The
I'm not very familiar with Spanish cinema, past or present, beyond the grimier horror stuff. What I do know is that the country, contrary to Pan's Labyrinth, is that Pedro Almodovar rules the international output with an iron fist. That may be a bit dramatic, but it's pretty much all I hear as a sorry excuse for a cineaste that doesn't pay nearly enough attention to European cinema. It's little surprise that the second a film by a different filmmaker finally escapes to the United States every critic is making direct comparisons.

Oh, but here's the good part—I'm such a sorry excuse for a film fan that I've never even seen an Almodovar film in its entirety. I've caught several bits on TV, but not enough to make a valid comparison of my own. So then, when everyone's done judging me, I'll get on with my review.

The Perfect Crime, or El Crimen Ferpecto, as it's more amusingly called in its native tongue, is a damn funny series of unfortunate events. It's a very modern take on two classic film models—a carefree, playboy chauvinist gets his proper comeuppance, and a desperate man tries to plan a untraceable murder. These stories have been told more times than I can count, but here they are revisited with vicious and energetic vigour.

Perfect Crime, The
Everything about the film's plot and style is in constant contrast. The jokes are old school, from the glory days of Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn screwballs, the days when you had to imply vulgarity, yet the film itself is visually quite vulgar. The opening scenes, where Rafa thrusts us into his world of debaucherous capitalism, are reminiscent of something like Fight Club or Trainspotting. Though lead characters have narrated directly to their audiences for years, this looks and feels quite modern. This whole mix of eras cumulates when Rafa rushes to the video store to rent classics that might help him plan the perfect murder.

The humour works because often the best jokes have already been told, but it also works because of director Álex de la Iglesia's (whose Perdita Durango is on my Netflix rental cue, and whose 800 Balas was slightly disappointing) utter control of the situation. The comedy often promenades into the absurd, but is always pulled back before things get too nutty. This pull back is vital as these cartoonish and absurd moments are almost always surprises. It's a delicate balance that's rarely misaligned.

Perfect Crime, The
The Perfect Crime is a perfectly playful film, though its comedy is of the black variety, the mood rarely shifts into a place so dark less tolerant viewers will want to leave. The acting is often broad, but perfectly pitched for the situation, only a handful of background players overshoot their marks. Guillermo Toledo is a revelation, able to play straight man to an entire world of comic relief, and able to act entire scenes with his eyebrows alone. He and Mónica Cervera (both of whom were nominated for Goyas) manage to believably switch roles and character types half way through the film, and both manage screwball humour without a lot of Jerry Lewis styled histrionics.

Video


The Perefect Crime takes place almost exclusively in the fluorescent light Mecca of the Yeyo department store. Colours are rich, bright, and for the most part very warm. The contrast here is that any time Rafa is forced to leave the store his world becomes darker, and cooler. This anamorphically enhanced DVD from Tartan reproduces this dizzying mix of colours rather beautifully, and even bright reds are relatively noise free. This wonderful colour sometimes finds its way into the darker areas, and thusly blacks are usually tinted to a degree. The transfer is not progressive, and there are some instances of interlacing images. Details could be sharper, but are still better than those of a lot of discs on the market (and from Tartan).

Perfect Crime, The

Audio


The Perfect Crime isn't an action epic, but because of its quirky and poppy soundtrack this is still a lively track. I can't say this is a particularly special track, but I can't complain either. The surround channels are most lively during musical montages and the final act 'action' scenes. The overall fidelity of the music, a mix of styles, is extremely crisp and impressive. Dialogue is centered and clear, and the subtitles only slightly lag on a few occasions.

Extras


Director Álex de la Iglesia is a very amusing guy. He's very dry, and I like it. For the most part this is a very tecnical track though, and doesn't have much time for laughs, but I enjoyed it alright. The director is joined by his co-writter, Jorge Guerricaechevarría, who doesn't get too many words in, but also offers up a few gems.

The commentary is followed by a behind the scenes featurette that though obviously made to sell the film, manages to entertain for its brief runtime. Iglesia is just as dry on set, and all the actors appear to be having an absolute blast. Infectious but rather uninformative. The featurette is followed up with a selection of Tartan trailers.

Perfect Crime, The

Overall


I had a great time with The Perfect Crime, but recognize it's a bit of an acquired taste. Comedy is very subjective, and I can't guarantee the laughs. If you enjoy classic screw-ball comedies, modern dry witticism, and the oddness found in Wes Anderson's work ( Rushmore, The Life Aquatic), I'm guessing you'll get a solid chuckle out of this flick too. The DVD isn't much to write home about, but looks and sounds pretty good.


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