Dr. Venkman DVD Review: 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'

by Joey Paur

'Kiss of the Spider Woman' was really the first independent film to actually be honored at the academy awards, with four nominations including Best Picture, best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor, which was won by William Hurt. It is a Brazillian-American drama that was made in 1985. The film was directed by Hector Babenco and was based on a novel by Manuel Puig of the same name.

I actually forgot this movie even existed until it was brought to my attention recently. This is a film that seems to have slipped through the cracks. I watched for the first time recently. For the time this movie was made, it looks like it would have been an incredibly hard sell to a studio, and it was.. After watching the movie I am surprised they actually pulled it off, and that it became as successful as it was.

The story and characters were unique and rare. It was a bold film for its time, and it almost didn't make it into theaters. You really have to be a hard core film buff to appreciate a movie like this. To the average movie watchers it may move slow, and the story itself may not be at all interesting and boring. To those people interested in film making, history, groundbreaking films, and deep thinking stories then this is a movie for you.

‘Kiss of the Spider Woman' is about a political prisoner by the name of Valentin Arregui (Raúl Juliá) and an effeminate homosexual and statutory rapist by the named Luis Molina (William Hurt). These two unlikely people share a Brazilian prison cell together.

Molina passes his time in prison by talking about one of his favorite films, which is a wartime romantic thriller that's also turns out to be a Nazi propaganda film. He weaves the characters into a narrative meant to comfort his cell mate Arregui and distract him from the harsh realities of his political imprisonment and the separation from the woman he loves.

As Molina tells his stories to Arregui, Arregui begins to open up and let's down his defensive wall. An unlikely friendship develops between these two prisoners, one of them is the dreamer and the other a political activist.
It is almost a movie within a movie because as Molina tells his story you get to watch it play out.

The film stars William Hurt, Raúl Juliá, Sonia Braga, José Lewgoy, and Milton Gonçalves in the leading roles. The acting was amazing in the film. It just seems like it would be so hard to pull that stuff off.

The movie is actually going to be released on Blu-Ray next month 11/4/2008. After all these years it was barely released on DVD.

This is a very well made film, and I found it fascinating. Whether you will like ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman' or not depends on your taste in films.
Here are a couple tidbits of trivia for this film that I found interesting:

Originally, William Hurt was cast as Valentin and Raul Julia was cast as Molina. During rehearsals, the two actors had trouble finding the chemistry they needed for their scenes together. They agreed to try an experiment where they would switch roles, with Hurt as Molina and Julia as Valentin. The role-switching rehearsal went so well that the two actors and director Hector Babenco decided that Hurt and Julia would switch parts for the film as well.

Reportedly, William Hurt and Raul Julia worked for nothing but the payment for their air tickets and hotel bills in Brazil, where the film was shot.



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