Deep Crimson

In some respects, it's a shame that DVD "two-fer" packs don't cut across company lines, because whether by accident or design, Arturo Ripstein's 1996 film Deep Crimson provides the perfect answer to Oliver Stone's 1994 feature Natural Born Killers. Leaving out the flash cuts, shamans, and Trent Reznor music, Deep Crimson depicts the life of lovers on the lam as dull and perilous. And though Crimson's couple might not have consciences to speak of, for them there's no thrill to the kill, because there are always those bodies to bury and stains to clean. But Deep Crimson doesn't entirely dispute Stone's vision, because when both movies are stripped to the core, they say the same thing: Sometimes love makes people do crazy things. But only Crimson acknowledges just how ugly that can be.

Playing an obese nurse who makes her living giving never-explained injections from her home, Regina Orozco seems lost; in the film's opening minutes, she breaks into fits of self-pity, desperate eroticism, verbal abuse, and abject regret. When she meets Daniel Giménez Cacho, those impulses don't so much disappear as find an outlet. A bottom-feeding gigolo who seduces desperate women by way of a Spanish accent and a vague resemblance to Charles Boyer (so long as he keeps his wig on), even Cacho is initially put off by his latest target. Maybe it's Orozco's self-confessed odor problem, or the fact that she boasts of her morgue work almost immediately after they meet. (As come-ons go, "I embalmed cadavers!" doesn't rank particularly high.) Claiming a migraine, Cacho flees, only to return later to seal the deal and help himself to some petty cash. Hooked in spite of the theft, Orozco soon turns up at Cacho's apartment with her two kids in tow. When these prove to be a problem, she drops them at a nearby orphanage. She'll do anything for her man, and Cacho begins to see an angle. It's a business advantage and a self-flattering turn-on rolled into one.

Ripstein and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego draw their film from the same true-life 1940s "Lonelyhearts Killers" who inspired the great Leonard Kastle cult film The Honeymoon Killers. Ripstein loses Kastle's overt satire and shoestring aesthetic, but the satirical underpinnings remain. A former assistant to Luis Buñuel and an impressive stylist even when budgetary restrictions have clearly limited him to a handful of sets, Ripstein uses Cacho's seduction of a variety of women—from an aging alcoholic floozy to a widow made gullible by her piety—to cast a suspicious eye at several strata of Mexican society. But Cacho and Orozco (who poses none-too-convincingly as Cacho's sister) anchor the film's center with their bizarre, destructive romance. "Your body is like that of an ancient goddess," Cacho tells his lover. He might be sincere, or it might just be another line. In the end, he might as well mean it. What they have must be love, if only because of the blood on their hands.

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