Imperfections Are a Crime

Friday, September 23, 2005

In Alex de la Iglesia's "El Crimen Perfecto" ("The Perfect Crime"), department store supervisor Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) lords it over the women's department with Machiavellian swagger. He wears expensive suits, sells dresses to the toughest shops in Madrid and seduces every attractive saleswoman in his department. For Rafael, a "date" means treating his latest conquest to the finest the store has to offer: designer clothes, champagne and lobster and, of course, those floor-model beds.

Rafael's dream -- to become floor manager -- is destroyed when rival Don Antonio (Luis Varela) lands the job. Worst of all, Don uses his new authority to humiliate Rafael and, eventually, fire him.

Without giving too much away, let's say Rafael's life becomes a film-noirish nightmare. He needs to get rid of a corpse, then contend with blackmail demands from an unattractive sales clerk (Monica Cervera) with a crush on him. The first 60 minutes of this black comedy are brilliantly sustained, but then director and co-writer de la Iglesia loses his way. From a tight satire about the emptiness of materialism, "El Crimen" degenerates into such macabre silliness, it's as if another director stepped in and -- rather like Don Antonio -- destroyed a beautiful thing.

-- Desson Thomson

© 2005 The Washington Post Company