- The Perfect Crime (2004) review: As a shy, unattractive salesgirl who, following a deadly twist of fate, reveals herself to be an ambitious, domineering, sexually insatiable Medusa, Mónica Cervera is the best thing about Álex de la Iglesia’s otherwise uneven – though boldly subversive – comedy about our perverse social values and mores.
- The Perfect Crime synopsis: After a losing out on a promotion, department store salesman and ladies’ man Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) accidentally kills his rival. Nail-biting saleswoman Lourdes (Mónica Cervera) is the only witness. In order to buy her silence, Rafael must obey her every command. Looks like murder might be the only solution.
The Perfect Crime (2004) review: Mónica Cervera tour de force makes Álex de la Iglesia’s brazenly ‘offensive’ black comedy a must-see
In Álex de la Iglesia’s pitch-black comedy The Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto, the suave, go-getting, self-assured Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) has two major goals in life: To bed every beautiful woman in sight and to become the clothing department manager at one of Madrid’s top department stores.
Everything seems to be going Rafael’s way until he discovers that his chief rival, Don Antonio (Luis Varela), has been selected as the new Emperor of the Floor.
A heated confrontation between Rafael and his newly appointed boss leads to the latter’s accidental death. In a panic, Rafael instinctively tries to hide the body. He is unaware that someone has overheard the fatal argument.
That someone turns out to be Lourdes (Mónica Cervera), a nail-biting, pathologically shy salesgirl whom Rafael abhors because he finds her ugly. In the past, Lourdes used to become an emotional wreck whenever she crossed paths with the cocky Rafael, but now a magical transformation occurs.
She quickly takes charge of the situation: Don Antonio’s body is gleefully chopped up and disposed of. Next, Rafael finds himself at the receiving end of a blackmail threat. Either he becomes her lover (and later husband), or…
Although Rafael doesn’t have much of a choice, he soon realizes that he can’t cope with Lourdes, for she needs a perpetual sex machine to keep her satisfied. Besides, she follows his every move and has turned the clothing department into her own private fiefdom.
So desperate that he has begun hallucinating, Rafael – following in the footsteps of Marcello Mastroianni in Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style – starts planning the perfect way to get rid of his overbearing wife/accomplice.
Show-stopper Mónica Cervera
While speaking to the audience at the AFI FEST screening of The Perfect Crime, Álex de la Iglesia – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jorge Guerricaechevarría – explained that, as a “freak,” he could relate to the film’s wide-eyed, big-nosed, haughtily twisted heroine – a character that wouldn’t remind anyone of Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie.
But whether you also see yourself as a freak, that should make no difference to your appreciation of the mousy, homely, deceptively insecure department store salesclerk who turns out to be a fiercely determined, sexually insatiable, all-seeing Medusa.
That’s because Mónica Cervera, in a role written expressly for her, is both a unique kind of antiheroine and a unique kind of talent. In fact, whenever Cervera is on screen, this Spanish-speaking “working woman” – à la Jean Arthur or Rosalind Russell, with the addition of a blood-drawing edge – lifts The Perfect Crime to the realm of classic (black) comedy.
Fearlessly subversive madcap humor
As a plus, de la Iglesia and Guerricaechevarría come up with several un-PC segments that would have done fellow Spaniard Pedro Almodóvar proud, including an uproarious family dinner conversation centered on Lourdes’ mother (Gracia Olayo) and sister (Alicia Andújar).
The latter is a precocious – and psychopathic – eight-year-old who, much to Mom’s annoyance, claims she can’t eat because she became pregnant after being raped by her gym teacher, who also gave her AIDS.
“If you send me to reform school,” the little girl warns her mother, “I’ll leave the gas switch on and we’ll all be blown to pieces.”
It’s anything but. Flawlessly acted, directed, and edited (Alejandro Lázaro), the family dinner sequence is a brilliant, rolling-in-the-aisles exemplar of – fearlessly subversive – madcap comedy.
Less perfection without its leading lady
Unfortunately, despite its many positive elements – the sort of stuff that would horrify and/or disgust the perpetually outraged and the politically correct everywhere – and leading man Guillermo Toledo’s best efforts as the slick bachelor turned murderous husband, the 105-minute The Perfect Crime suffers whenever its black-as-peat heart, Mónica Cervera, isn’t around.
Without that one stellar performance, Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría’s gritty, brave satire on our perverted personal and social values is unable to sustain its comedic level.
The Perfect Crime / Ferpect Crime / Crimen ferpecto (2004) cast & crew
Director: Álex de la Iglesia.
Screenplay: Álex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría.
Guillermo Toledo … Rafael González
Mónica Cervera … Lourdes
Luis Varela … Don Antonio Fraguas
Enrique Villén … Comisario Campoy
Fernando Tejero … Alonso
Javier Gutiérrez … Jaime
Kira Miró … Roxanne
Rosario Pardo … Misled Woman
Gracia Olayo … Concha
José Alias … Matías
Penélope Velasco … Susana
Montse Mostaza … Helena (as Montserrat Mostaza)
Eduardo Gómez … Taxi Driver
Enrique Martínez … Pepón
Alicia Andújar … Desiree
Cinematography: José L. Moreno.
Film Editing: Alejandro Lázaro.
Music: Roque Baños.
Producers: Álex de la Iglesia, Roberto Di Girolamo, and Gustavo Ferrada.
Art Direction: José Luis Arrizabalaga and Biaffra (as Arturo García ‘Biaffra’).
Costume Design: Paco Delgado.
Production Companies: Panico Films | Sogecine | Planet Pictures | TVE Televisión Española | Digital Plus | EITB | Sogepaq.
Distributors: Warner Sogefilms S.A. (Spain) | Vitagraph Films (United States, 2005)
Running Time: 105 min.
Country: Spain | Italy.
“The Perfect Crime (2004): Defiantly ‘Offensive’ Black Comedy” notes
The title also works as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Crimen Perfecto, better known as Dial M for Murder (1954), in which husband Ray Milland attempts to frame unfaithful wife Grace Kelly for murder.
It should be noted that some English-language outlets refer to Álex de la Iglesia’s satire as El Crimen Perfecto (with the original misspelling gone).
The Perfect Crime awards & nominations
The Perfect Crime was nominated for several awards, including:
- European Film Awards (2005): Best European Director (Álex de la Iglesia).
- 6 Spanish Academy Goya Awards including: Best Actor (Guillermo Toledo), Best New Actress (Mónica Cervera), and Best Supporting Actor (Luis Varela).
The Perfect Crime movie credits via the British Film Institute (BFI) website.
Guillermo Toledo and Mónica Cervera The Perfect Crime movie images: Vitagraph Films.
“The Perfect Crime (2004): Defiantly ‘Offensive’ Black Comedy” last updated in December 2023.