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PERDITA DURANGO review from Germany's Fantasy Filmfestival

Well I hadn't heard of this flick at all, so this was as much a surprise and a learning experience as it will be for you. (unless you're smarter than me and are already aware of Perdita Durango) Boy, I tell you. Between that film festival in Canada, World Con in Baltimore and this Film Fest in Germany, we sure are getting some cool reports! So I'll let you get on with the latest one...

I just saw the director's cut of PERDITA DURANGO, again at the Fantasy Filmfestival in Germany. As a huge fan of David Lynch - not only of his films, but his entire work as an artist - I have been waiting to see PERDITA DURANGO since the first time I heard this project was in the works. I got even more excited when the Spanish enfant terrible Alex de la Iglesia (ACCION MUTANTE and EL DIA DE LA BESTIA aka DAY OF THE BEAST) replaced Bigas Luna (JAMON, JAMON) on the director's chair.

For those of you who haven't heard about PERDITA and now ask themselves what this flick has to do with David Lynch, here's the explanation: If you've seen WILD AT HEART you might remember who Perdita Durango is. She's the strange, cool, devilish vamp played by the wonderful Isabella Rosselini. Now, the novel WILD AT HEART is based on was writted by Barry Gifford (who also co-wrote Lynch's latest masterpiece LOST HIGHWAY). PERDITA is based on another Gifford novel, "59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango" which centers on the character of Perdita Durango. You can see this flick as kind of a very loose prequel to WILD AT HEART.

The movie itself is actually more about Romeo Dolorosa (Javier Bardem, giving an incredible performance and featuring a pretty fancy haircut), who earns his living as a killer, bank-robber and hobby-voodooist, and his relationship with Perdita, degrading her more or less to a large supporting role. Romeo is pretty sick and it's so much fun to watch him. You get the impression he would do everything for money - he even excepts a mobster's politically incorrect assignment to drive a truck loaded with fetuses to Las Vegas where they are supposed to be sold to the cosmetics industry.

I guess most people can't stand Rosie Perez, but I like her a lot and I'm glad to see her in the role of Perdita. She fits in perfectly, much better than the innocent looking Isabella Rosselini would have. She's very believable as the tough, sexy chick (let's stress "sexy" a bit), but also when it comes to show some feelings. Her looks and performance reminded me of the man-slaying Tura Satana in Russ Meyer's excellent FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

The movie is about Perdita and Romeo's trip from Mexico to Las Vegas. On their way they have lots of fun with plenty of sex, some killings, rapings, the kidnapping of a young teenie couple, and ancient aztec rituals (the young couple comes in handy...). Everything would be so perfectly idyllic if there wasn't a bunch of suckers after them: an extraordinary tough cop, the kidnapped girl's father, an ex-partner of Romeo who got fucked-over by him, and Romeo's cousin Reggie (played by Javier Bardem's real-life brother Carlos). I guess you can tell what happens on the road to L.V...

Gifford's novel is based on the case of the religious fanatic Adolfo Costanzo and his girl Sara Aldrete, who were convicted for murdering 13 people during their bloody rituals. The movie version comes along as a more radical vision of Lynch's WILD AT HEART, the characters of Romeo and Perdita seem like a bad-ass re-incarnaction of Sailor and Lula. It often reminds of Oliver Stone's so-so adaption of Tarantino's NATURAL BORN KILLERS script - but PERDITA DURANGO is much much better than that. With a budget of about $9 mio., it's the most expensive movie ever produced in Spain - and also one of the most violent ones: Countless characters get hit by cars (one even multiple times), faces are slashed with broken bottles, corpses are mutilated during the strange rituals, and the crucifixion of Christ is shown in a way you haven't seen it before. There are also a lot more explosions and pyrotechnics than in any other Spanish picture before (Javier and Carlos Bardiem and a crew member actually got burnt pretty badly during a poorly synchronized explosion).

However, the best thing about this flick isn't the carnage (I fear some of it won't make it to US theatres) or the pyrotechnics - it's Iglesia's great sense for over-the-top black humor and whacky characters. In my opinion, the characters make the movie. It's like with DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON: ARMAGEDDON was superior to DEEP IMPACT because of its characters (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare really stole the show), not the special effects. Same here. All the people in this film are so colorful and have that special touch that makes them absolutely unique. If you enjoy Iglesia's strange, morbid humor, you will have a great time with PERDITA DURANGO cause there are so many scenes and dialogues that have the potential to make you laugh your ass off.

There's really not much to complain about PERDITA DURANGO. It's a lot of fun to watch, almost all the way. There are numerous well-staged action-sequences, some nice camerawork and many entertaining dialogue scenes. Enough of everything to satisfy my movie geek desires. If only Iglesia hadn't employed so many flashback sequences to define and explain his character's motivations, to show his audience how they became what they are today. Those flashbacks are often a little distracting and work only at some moments, however, they aren't so bad that they could ruin the movie.

So, if you don't have problems with sex & violence, paired with lots of black humor, if you like roadmovies and gangster flicks, then PERDITA DURANGO might be something for you. Go see it and support Iglesia and the entire Spanish movie industry, it's definitely worth it.

Yours truly,

Special Agent Dale Scooper

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 9, 1998, 5:11 a.m. CST

    wasn't there also a perdita durango comic?

    by sethos

    I seem to remember that a while ago Barry Gifford actually wrote a comic book called Perdita Durango... couldn't the movie have been based on that one? As I remember, there were a lot of voodoo influences in it....

  • Aug. 9, 1998, 6:30 a.m. CST

    I have seen PERDITA too

    by kiko

    Hi everyone. I

  • Aug. 9, 1998, 3:46 p.m. CST

    Perdita was a bit of a disappointment.

    by Ciro

    In Spain the movie was a dissapointment after "Day of the Beast". I am a big fan of Alex de la Iglesia and of course I was dying to see his last movie. Well, it was a small failure not in the visual part (see:the ritual) but because it had four really, REALLY good screenwriters... complete and utterly wasted because they couldnt keep the story interesting after the first 30 minutes. But it didn't went to the hell of boredom thanks to some good gags (the character hit by a car) but it could have been much, much better. He can do it better!!!. I hope he returns to the coolness of his first two movies in the "Fu-Manchu" remake he is planning to do.

  • Aug. 10, 1998, 5:37 p.m. CST

    color

    by howling

    Harry, lose the background. it looks like bat-barf. Otherwise, love the site, check it all the time.