Deep Crimson

MexicoMovie IndustryEntertainmentMoviesCharles BoyerDeathPedro Almodovar

Friday November 7, 1997

     In the hands of virtuoso Mexican director Arturo Ripstein, "Deep Crimson" is the color of melodrama, passion and death. A strange and deeply twisted romance, "Deep Crimson" never strays from its uncompromising vision of the dark power of a destructive couple madly, deeply and perhaps truly in love.
     Though his work is not often seen in this country, Ripstein is probably Mexico's preeminent filmmaker, a man who has directed 24 films since his career began in 1965. Ripstein makes use of his accumulated skill to control this deliberately paced film as it holds a twisted and pitiless mirror to conventional notions of romantic love.
     Set in northern Mexico in 1949, "Deep Crimson" is based on the same true-life source material that inspired Leonard Kastle's memorable 1970 "The Honeymoon Killers," starring Tony LoBianco and Shirley Stoller as a grotesque couple who preyed on lonely, desperate and gullible women.
     That description certainly fits Coral Fabre (Regina Orozco), a woman of considerable size who lives in cluttered poverty with her two children. A morgue worker and part-time nurse, Coral is aware the stench of formaldehyde, and death clings to her, but that doesn't stop her from devouring romance magazines and developing a fixation on suave movie star Charles Boyer.
     *
     Always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a mother who alternately mistreats and then sobs over her children, Coral impulsively answers an ad in a lonely hearts column, figuring, "What can I lose?" If she only knew.
     The ad was placed by Nicholas Estrella (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). He runs a lonely-hearts scam, using his would-you-believe Charles Boyer looks and charm to swindle money from unwary victims. He himself, meanwhile, is insecure enough to practically foam at the mouth if he's discovered without his hairpiece. He meets Coral, gets physically attacked by her in the intensity of her passion, and, somewhat unnerved, decides never to see her again.
     Nicholas reckons without, however, the unyielding madness of Coral's love. She uproots herself to follow him, vowing to rid herself of her children and even her life if he doesn't submit to her ardor. She discovers the nature of his chicanery and swears to help him, proposing traveling as his sister and helping him decide which women to victimize. Astonished and even flattered at the frenzy of her emotions, Nicholas agrees.
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     So begins a squalid spree of seduction of women (including one played by Pedro Almodovar stalwart Marisa Paredes) who are as delusional about love as their victimizers. And because Coral's jealousy knows no bounds, these women are often murdered, clumsily, horrifically, almost as an afterthought.
     Yet once the murders are committed, Coral and Nicholas view them as a kind of consecration of their love, a strengthening of the bond between them. "Providence brought us together," he tells her, "or maybe the devil."
     *
     Working from an expert script by Paz Alicia Garciadiego, director Ripstein conjures up an unblinkingly grotesque vision of love in a state of hysteria. From the carefully chosen muted colors to cinematographer Guillermo Granillo's elegant compositions to the ironic counterpoint provided by composer David Mansfield's neo-romantic score, everything combines to create a disturbing scenario we view in both horror and fascination.
     "You must learn to watch your heart," Nicholas says at one point, but no one in "Deep Crimson" has bothered to listen.


Deep Crimson, 1997. Unrated. An Ivania Film, MK2 Productions, Wanda Films, Institute Mexicano de Cinematoraphia, TVE co-production, released by New Yorker Films. Director Arturo Ripstein. Producers Miguel Necoechea, Paolo Barbachano. Executive producer Tita Lombardo. Screenplay Paz Alicia Garciadiego. Cinematographer Guillermo Granillo. Editor Rafael Castanedo. Costumes Monica Neumaier. Music David Mansfield. Production design Macarena Folalche, Marisa Pecanins, Monica Chirinos. Sound Carlos Faruolo, Antonio Bentancourt. Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes. Regina Orozco as Coral Fabre. Daniel Gimenez Cacho as Nicholas Estrella. Marisa Paredes as Irene Gallardo. Patricia Reyes Espindola as The Widow Ruelas. Juanita Norton as Julieta Egurrola.

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