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Luis Molina and Valentin Arregui are cell mates in a South American prison. Luis, a homosexual, is found guilty of immoral behaviour and Valentin is a political prisoner. To escape reality Luis invents romantic movies, while Valentin tries to keep his mind on the situation he's in. During the time they spend together, the two men come to understand and respect one another. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
William Hurt initially struggled with developing characterization and mannerisms for Luis, until he became inspired to portray the character not necessarily as a homosexual, but more like "a woman trapped in a man's body." See more »
She's... well, she's something a little strange. That's what she noticed, that she's not a woman like all the others. She seems all wrapped up in herself. Lost in a world she carries deep inside her.
See more »
Two social outcasts, Molina (William Hurt), and Valentin (Raul Julia) share a prison cell in this bleak character study that says a lot about how mainstream social institutions vilify nonconformists. Molina, whose mannerisms and dialogue clearly reveal his homosexual inclination, loves to describe his favorite film to Valentin, a political prisoner who is straight, but takes Molina's gayness in stride. Frustration, anger, emotional pain, bitterness, and fantasies fuel the conversations between Molina and Valentin.
The film's script structure is a little unusual. Most of the plot takes place in the prison cell. But interspersed among these scenes are scenes from Molina's fantasy film, a WWII Nazi melodrama, wherein a flamboyantly "ravishing" French entertainer, a woman named Leni (Sonia Braga), engages in a romance with a German soldier, a man named Werner. There's an obvious parallel between Molina and Leni, and their political liaisons.
The Nazi film provides viewers with much needed diversion from the static scenes in the prison cell. But I found the fantasy characters not especially interesting. Plot pacing in "Kiss Of The Spider Woman" is rather slow. The prison cell scenes are heavy on dialogue.
Cinematography is color throughout the film, except in the fantasy film, which is sepia toned. Background music is pleasantly artistic, and sometimes nostalgic. Production design is fairly minimal; the film is very low budget. William Hurt does indeed give a terrific performance in his role. Raul Julia is adequate. Sonia Braga's performance is overly melodramatic, but maybe deliberately so.
"Kiss Of The Spider Woman" is an art-house film that is worth watching for its portrayal of social outcasts. And, of course, the film contains William Hurt's wonderful, Oscar winning performance.
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