Friday, 18 May 2018

Perdita Durango (4 Stars)

This film, also known as "Dance with the Devil", has been released in many different versions, with different scenes being cut in different countries. Both the rated and the unrated American versions are censored. The British release is censored. Even the Australian release which calls itself "uncut" is missing about 10 minutes. It's not only violence that has been censored. Some of the cuts appear to be due to copyright reasons. There are excerpts from other films that are removed in America. Until recently the only uncut version was available in Spain, a dubbed version without the original English dialogue. This year an uncut version was finally released in Germany, complete with the original English dialogue. This is the only version I can recommend.

Perdita Durango is the name of a young prostitute who lives in America. She travels to Mexico to scatter her sister's ashes. On the way back she meets an enigmatic man called Romeo Dolorosa. He's a bank robber, a drug dealer and a Santeria priest. (Wikipedia claims that he's only pretending to be a Santeria priest. It seems like the author didn't pay attention to the film).

Santeria is a variant of voodoo practised in the Caribbean. It's strongly influenced by Catholicism, but its ceremonies involve animal sacrifice. Allegedly human sacrifice has also been practised in past centuries.

The relationship between Perdita and Romeo is a tale of love and obsession. At first she resists Romeo, then she becomes fascinated by his lifestyle, and finally she wants to control him. He has a job to do, transporting frozen fetuses from Mexico to a cosmetics company in Las Vegas, but he wants to perform a Santeria ceremony before crossing the border into America. Perdita suggests that they kidnap a gringo and eat him at the next ceremony. They grab two 17-year-old teenagers in a busy street, Duane and Estelle, who become their companions for the rest of the film. Romero treats Duane as a friend, because he thinks that dying in a Santeria ceremony is the biggest honour a person can have. The two youngsters were previously virgins, but Romero rapes Estelle and Duane has a voluntary sexual relationship with Perdita. A twisted foursome begins.

Romeo is being pursued by an American DEA agent, played by James Gandolfini, who doesn't want to intervene until he crosses the border. After all, Mexico is out of his jurisdiction.

Why is James Ganolfini injured? He was hit by a car. Twice. Estelle's father is also hit by a car. That's my biggest complaint about the film. Seeing someone being accidentally hit by a car twice in one film is a bit weird, but seeing three identical car accidents in one film is ridiculous. It looks like slapstick. These accidents aren't even essential to the plot. All three could have been removed without taking anything away from the story. In fact, they should have been removed, because it would have improved the story.

Alex de la Iglesia is one of my favourite directors. Most of his films have been made in Spanish. He's only made two films in English, "Perdita Durango" and "The Oxford Murders". It's notable that these two films are weaker than any of his Spanish films. Maybe his creativity is lost in translation?

This is the cover of the recent German release, available on Blu-ray and DVD. It's the only version you should buy. I won't even give you links to the American and English releases.

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