Luis Molina and Valentin Arregui are cell mates in a South American prison. Luis, a trans individual, is found guilty of immoral behavior 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>
The film was made and released about nine years after its source novel of the same name "Kiss of the Spider Woman" ("El Beso de la Mujer Araña") by Manuel Puig was first published in 1976. Argentinian author Puig adapted the book into a stage play in 1983 and this was first staged in the same 1985 year that this movie was first released. The novel was also adapted into a stage musical a decade later in 1993. 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.
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Kiss of the Spider Woman Review from The Massie Twins
To each his own form of escape. For political prisoner Valentin it is a dream of freedom with the woman he loves; for cellmate Luis it is to gain a sense of higher purpose by becoming involved with a selfless cause for a love he can never have. In Kiss of the Spider Woman film is an escape on two levels a momentary reverie from inhuman conditions in a nondescript bastille and as pure cinematic escapism for the viewer who can become lost in a movie of thought-provoking fantasy and film-within-a-film parallels.
Luis Molina (William Hurt) is a homosexual window dresser, now a convict in an undefined Latin American prison (marked simply with the name Pavilhao IV), locked away for corrupting a minor. His cellmate is Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia), a journalist revolutionary detained and tortured for his political ties. At first Valentin is annoyed by Molina's fanciful attitude as the two men clearly have opposite life views, but eventually grows to depend on his kindness a complex relationship that becomes even more intricate when Luis begins to fall in love.
Molina passes the time by telling the story of one of his favorite films, a German propaganda feature that finds distracted singer Leni (Sonia Braga) falling for an enemy Nazi soldier, confused about whether to continue aiding the French Resistance with a plot to steal a secret map to a German arsenal, or trusting in the man she loves. As her story progresses, Molina's real life begins to imitate the embroidered fiction of the movie for his involvement with Valentin evolves into something shockingly deliberate.
The performances by William Hurt and Raul Julia are quite masterful, with Hurt embodying a quirky and unexpected character resoundingly unique amongst major roles of the time (they were purportedly cast in each other's roles, switching when the chemistry wasn't natural). Although the story is daringly bizarre and oddly beautiful, it is the performances by the leading roles that outshine the morals of the tale. Hurt in drag with his lingering monologues and frequent one-sided conversations is a courageous role that won him the Best Actor Oscar of 1985.
Kiss of the Spider Woman's claim to fame was it's groundbreaking achievement of being the first independent film ever to receive the top four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture for producer David Weisman, Best Director for Hector Babenco, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Leonard Schrader from Manuel Puig's novel. A melancholy romantic theme presides over the muted browns of Molina's fantasy narrative and the darkly tinted blues of their bleak existence as pawns for the oppressive right-wing regime. The escapism and fantasy of Kiss of the Spider Woman is just as relevant as today, and this disturbingly singular film is a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable retreat.
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