One of many retrospectives at LFF 28 featured the work of Álex de la Inglesia in the Fanomenon strand – the wide-ranging genre/’cult’ section of the festival. Ferpect Crime is one of de la Inglesia’s most commercial films with nearly 2 million admissions across Europe – but not in the UK. Although UK distribution was available for some of the director’s early art films such as Acción mutante (1993) the later films have generally not been picked up and especially not a black comedy like Ferpect Crime. (The more recent Balada triste de trompeta (The Last Circus, Spain/France 2010) was reviewed on this blog when it appeared at the Viva Festival at Cornerhouse in Manchester.) ‘Popular comedies’ from other European countries are supposedly the most difficult sell in the UK and distributors simply won’t go there – unless it is Almodóvar. This means that often the biggest hits in Germany, Italy, Spain and even France simply aren’t seen in the UK. It seems that a DVD from a relatively obscure UK company, TLA Releasing (the UK arm of an American company specialising in LGBT and global horror) is available and LFF used this for projection. It didn’t look at all bad.
Ferpect Crime is not that dissimilar to some of Almodóvar’s films from the 1980s, but arguably less complex/surprising. However, it’s very difficult to define precisely why one is ‘art’ and the other is ‘popular’. I should also say that while Almodóvar has depicted all forms of sexuality, often outrageously, he’s never in my view been ‘sexist’. De la Inglesia, based just on the two films I’ve seen, does seem to stray a bit closer to the edge, even if the representations are exaggerated in order to drive a form of social critique.
The plot outline sees Rafael as a super-successful salesman in a Madrid department store. He employs mainly beautiful women as sales assistants on his territory (women’s fashions). They all appear to love him and he spends his nights seducing them one by one in the store after it closes, bribing the security guard. The store is his life – until everything goes wrong and he accidentally kills his rival who runs the men’s department. Miraculously his problems are solved by the one woman who he has never noticed – the plain woman who desires him and who now has power over him. How is he going to get out of this mess?
I confess that I enjoyed the film and certainly laughed out loud at several of the scenes. I suspect as with many Spanish films, that I might have missed some cultural references and I did wince at some of the sexist moments. But I took the film overall to be a comedy about gender roles and a critique about consumerism and reality TV. I’ll file it next to several other popular Spanish films that have failed to get into UK cinemas but which have generally been very entertaining.