Profundo carmesí (1996)



(director: Arturo Ripstein; screenwriter: Alicia Paz Garciadiego; cinematographer: Guillermo Granillo; editor: Raphael Catanedo: cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho (Nicolas Estrella), Regina Orozco (Coral Fabre), Marisa Paredes (Irene Gallardo), Julieta Egurrola (Juanita Norton), Rosa Furman (Mrs. Silberman), Veronica Merchant (Rebeca Sampedro), Patricia Reyes Espindola (Mrs. Ruelas); Runtime: 115; Metro/Tartan; 1996-Mex.)



“This is a chilling tale by one of Mexico’s most respected directors, who left no room for anyone to have sympathy for these two twisted lovers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A very troubling film regarding the real crimes committed by Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, who were executed in 1951. This Mexican version is a re-working of The Honeymoon Killers (69), set in the Mexico of 1949. It offers a vividpicture of greed, vanity, and pure evil. This film differs from the former by offering a more gaudy and cartoonish style of filmmaking. The film has a penchant for showing the troubled characters gazing into mirrors, as if they were looking for their lost souls. The grim nature of its story was made less austere by the film’s black comedy, which was a staple of both film versions. As diabolical as this film was in showing the couple to be moral degenerates with no conscience or redeeming qualities, the earlier film is the one I still prefer; it is slightly different by holding a more cult-like look at the grotesque couple, while also showing them to be heartless weirdos without any redeeming qualities.

Coral (Regina Orozco) is overweight and suffers from halitosis. She is a nurse and a part-time embalmer whose search for her own Charles Boyer ends when she meets gigolo-confidence man Nicolas (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) through a lonely heart ad she responds to. This is a match made in hell. Nicolas poses as a native born Spaniard and a gentleman who sleeps with her at her urgings and awakens from this bed of bliss to rob her, which Coral sees but says nothing. Coral tracks him down with her two small children in tow the next day and declares he is the man she always wanted and will do anything for him. Coral even tells Nicolas, while she is waiting in his apartment the next day for him to return and that she read all his letters and knows that he is an extortionist and murdered one widow by giving her an overdose of medication. When Nicolas wavers at her proposal to live together, Coral takes the children the same day and dumps them in an orphanage saying she would rather have him than them. Coral also tells Nicolas that she would rather kill herself than not have him. This pleases the egocentric gigolo, who suffers from severe migraines. Nicolas suddenly realizes that this arrangement could help his scams and that Coral will never betray him.

The most important thing in the vain Nico’s life is to look good. His most important possession is his hairpiece, as he is ashamed of his baldness and spends long periods of time in front of the mirror adjusting the wig and his fedora with the brim turned down. There is one point in the story where he loses his hairpiece and he falls apart, until she comes to the rescue and has one made up with her hair. To say that this cowardly couple have psychological problems, is to say a mouthful.

The two team up, presenting themselves as brother and sister, as they go on a long string of crimes together. In their first big job, they answer a lonely heart ad from a widow named Juanita (Egurrola). Things go wrong when they meet her in a remote bar lounge and she tells him she is penniless, living with a jealous lover and having to sneak out to meet him. When the two start dancing romantically together things go bizarre, as the obese Coral has a jealousy tantrum and kills the widow by spiking her drink with rat poison. So now their crime spree is not only over greed but resorts to murder because of jealousy, and the gigolo becomes her murder accomplice.

Their next victim is a lonely widow, Irene (Marisa). They convince her to go along with them on a Christian crusade. Irene’s anarchist Jewish neighbor (Furman) recognizes these two as charlatans and tries to warn her friend, but to no avail. She is so desperate for a man in her bed, that she runs off with the two and gets married in a cemetery. When they check into a motel and she wants to sleep with her husband, the jealous Coral cracks a statue over her head and that takes care of another widow. Her arrangement with Nico, is that he doesn’t sleep with anyone else.

Their last murder is their most horrid and sloppiest, as they answer a personal ad from a widow (Espindola) in a backwater town who wants to meet a mechanic and promises to marry him if a two month courtship is proved to be satisfactory to her. The widow turns out to be a young woman with a young daughter, and is very sexually aggressive with Nico. She demands that his sister leaves which she does, but soon returns on Nico’s request that he needs her because he is having migraines and that the widow is pregnant. The cowardly couple have no qualms killing both the mother and daughter, and it is only through betrayal by one of them that the cops are called.

The next day, the police gun them down like dogs in the field, and the vain Nico only begs to be shot with his wig on. Nico doesn’t want to die in front of Coral without his wig.

This is a chilling tale by one of Mexico’s most respected directors, who left no room for anyone to have sympathy for these two twisted lovers. The director caught the slimy couple’s depravity full-blast and never let up on them. To watch Coral put the widow’s young child in a bath and wantonly kill her, while at the same time mothering her, was as gross and ghastly a sight as anyone would want to see.