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Kiss of the Spider Woman
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Reviews & Ratings for
Kiss of the Spider Woman More at IMDbPro »

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54 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

"Film within a film" really works

9/10
Author: Deming Herbert from Montpellier, France
26 August 2002

Reading the other reviews, I see that homophobes have been duly warned about this movie, so I won't say anything about the relationship between the two men beyond that it is complex and beautiful.

What interests me more for the purposes of this little blurb is that no one has commented on how the "film within a film" (much like the "play within a play" in Hamlet) reflects the actual events unfolding in the prison cell. Molina (William Hurt) is ostensibly retelling his favorite film to entertain Valentin (Raul Julia) and make the time pass more quickly, but he himself admits that he "embroiders" the story to make it more real. So who is to say if this film exists except in Molina's mind, and if it does, what really transpired in the film? The story about the French woman who is in love with a German officer during World War II, and must decide whether or not to betray him, is an obvious parallel to Molina's decision to betray Valentin or not. Even Molina says that he most identifies with Leni La Maison (Sonia Braga) in this film of his, and it's not just because he is a drag queen. It's because he has to choose between the man he loves and "patriotism" (in his case, represented by the police/government as well as his ailing mother).

This storytelling tactic works brilliantly, in my opinion. Kiss of the Spider Woman is indeed original, quirky, and a must-see.

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40 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Powerful stuff...

9/10
Author: Tesse
5 December 1998

This film, about two thoroughly different souls turning into each other, is one of the all-time greats. The writing is crisp, the acting is phenomenal, and the story is exquisite. I have read the book in both Spanish and English, seen the musical four times, read the script of the play, and watched this movie over and over again... I recommend it to anyone who wants a true powerhouse drama, not a schmaltzy tearjerker.

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38 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

An underrated gem

10/10
Author: pup-3 from Boston
20 January 1999

"Spider Woman", although an emotionally draining film, is a true classic. Right from the first scene, you feel the frustration of Valentin and Molina, both outcasts of society, yet for very different reasons.

The acting is nothing less than extraordinary. William Hurt as the lonely homosexual, Molina, the late Raul Julia, as the stern, but deeply caring political prisoner, Valentin, and Sonia Braga, who takes on three different roles, including the title role, and plays them all brilliantly, are what makes this film

so great.

Although Hurt deservingly won the Oscar for Best Actor, the same consideration should have been given to Julia and Braga for their contribution.

If you've seen it, see it again....if you haven't, I highly recommend you do.

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19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

This Weird Movie Will Catch You in Its Web

8/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
8 April 2008

A bizarre, evocative film which seems strange even now -- I can't imagine what audiences made of it in 1985.

William Hurt and Raul Julia play cell mates, one gay, the other straight, rotting away in a Latin American prison under the iron thumb of a tyrannical dictatorship. At first, Julia's Latin machismo makes him repelled by Hurt's flamboyant femininity, but the two gradually bond, thrown together as they are, and discover a kind of love that transcends conventions about love and sex and that can probably only exist between two people surviving in extreme conditions.

Hurt, already known as a strapping leading man at the time, took quite a risk playing this fey character, especially at a time when movies still weren't comfortable with mainstream portrayals of gays, but his risk payed off -- he won that year's Best Actor Academy Award and became just about the hottest actor in town for a few years there in the mid-80s. Julia has a much less showy role, but the success of the film is dependent upon the strength of both male leads, and he delivers. Sonia Braga plays the eponymous spider woman, a dream figure cobbled together by both men from their imaginations and memories of old movies.

This film is a big downer, but if you enjoy well-acted, well-written stories, then the depressing ending is worth it.

Grade: A

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23 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Deeply emotional and rewarding experience

9/10
Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
6 July 2005

Slow-paced but amazingly compelling and moving drama, mainly set in the filthy prison cell of a never-named Latin American dictatorship country. It is here that the flamboyant homosexual Molina shares his escape-fantasies with the idealistic (but heterosexual) revolutionary warrior Valentin. The stories they tell, either coming from Molina's vivid imagination or from Valentin's struggling past, all feature a similar woman. This primarily Brazilian film is a quintessential piece of artwork. No wild car-chases, gunfights or steamy sex sequences here but you'll be fascinated by the strong dialogs, the mesmerizing acting performances and the professional directing skills of Hector Babenco. The growing relationship between the two opposite protagonists is masterfully illustrated and the depressing set-pieces only increase your sympathy for the both of them. "Kiss of the Spider Woman" is the only film I've seen so far that successfully implements a complex structure containing flashbacks as well as dream-sequences - and even film-in-film images – without becoming overly confusing. Raul Julia and William Hurt both deliver their finest performances ever, and the latter righteously got rewarded with an Oscar. A definite must see for every demanding fan of film-making.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A well-acted and well-directed film

8/10
Author: medders from Glendale, Arizona
8 August 2000

"Kiss of the Spider Woman" is a fine portrayal of how two completely different men can come to understand one another and how unselfish love can transcend sexual preference. The story slowly reveals itself as the movie progresses, and in the end,the film is about much more than is first apparent. I admired the gutsy performances by Hurt and Julia, and the direction by Brazilian Hector Babenco, who uses long, involved shots, instead of cutting away quickly (which, unfortunately, is used so often). The film hasn't remained very well known since it was released in 1985, but it is definitely worth seeing if you can find it. 8/10

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19 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

A Pleasant Surprise on Many Levels

8/10
Author: gspieg from United States
28 February 2006

The first time I saw this movie it had just been released. The theater was packed and my wife and I ended up sitting in the front row on a wing. I hated the movie. I couldn't understand what all the hoopla was about and it just didn't sit well. My wife and I discussed the movie after wards and she couldn't believe I didn't like it. She liked it a lot. After discussing it I agreed to see it again and not sit in the front row. I quickly discovered I was wrong about the movie. William Hurt and Raul Julia are outstanding. This movie resonated on many different levels that it's hard to describe. The friendship between the two main characters was absolute regardless of their present unfortunate situation. They are two ordinary people thrown together by fate in an extremely difficult situation and they make the best of it. The conflicts going on around them would destroy lesser men. Their reality is bleak, at best, and they find a way to survive. Powerful performances at every level are the order of the day. Sonja Braga is a delightful distraction as real as any fantasy. I can't wait for this movie to come out on DVD!

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Kiss of the Spider Woman Review from The Massie Twins

7/10
Author: GoneWithTheTwins from www.GoneWithTheTwins.com
31 October 2008

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.

- Mike Massie

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Life As A Nonconformist

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
14 September 2008

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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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Rewarding movie.

8/10
Author: johncusacksback from Woodside, Queens
21 June 2003

***1/2 out of ****

Exceptional, daring movie about a homosexual prisoner and a politically driven prisoner, who come to terms with their differences and start a friendship. William Hurt is brilliant as the homosexual prisoner, who's only escape from his sad reality is to talk about an old movie he once saw. Raul Julia is every bit as good as the tough as nails, political revolutionary. The direction is good, too.

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