Kiss of the Spider Woman

D: Hector Babenco
HB/Sugarloaf (David Weisman)
US/Brazil 1985
119 mins


W: Leonard Schrader [based on the novel by Manuel Puig]
DP: Rodolfo Sanchez
Ed: Mauro Alice & Lee Percy
Mus: John Neschling

William Hurt (Luis Molina), Raul Julia (Valentin Arregui), Sonia Braga (Leni Lamaison / Marta / Spider Woman)

Those settling down to watch this expecting a horror movie will be sorely disappointed. The title may allude to that particular genre, but this a political prison drama with main character who is flamboyantly homosexual.
Luis Molina (William Hurt), jailed for offences against a minor, shares a cell with political prisoner Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia), whom he entertains with stories about his favourite pulp movies, all of which star Spider Woman (Sonia Braga).
The main plot of the film develops slowly, only truly taking shape in the final 30 minutes, so it's understood if people switch off before then, but it's really worth sticking with.
In hindsight, it's quite strange that William Hurt won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of, what is basically, an effeminate, overly camp stereotype, but it has to be remembered that this performance is amongst the first of its kind.  Though it must be said that Raul Julia's performance is the one to watch, full of quiet rage and pent up aggression.
It's certainly not a film for everyone, but should find a core audience amongst art house aficionados.

William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman
William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman