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The film opens with Molina describing, in great detail, the plot of a campy WWII-era movie to his cellmate, Valentin Arregui, played by the impressive Raul Julia (One From the Heart, The Addams Family). As Molina launches into his soliloquy about the picture, which was also a Nazi propaganda film, Spider Woman's pace is set. Molina's recollections on the film serve as his escape from the dank prison cell he inhabits, a draconian place that he was thrust into as the result of an alleged immoral indiscretion. Lounging about the cell draped in multicolor kimonos and robes, Hurt plays up Molina's homosexuality without turning it into satire or stereotype. Arregui, on the other hand, is a political prisoner devoted to resisting the authoritarian regime they live under. At one point, when Molina offers him some avocado, Arregui declines, declaring that his political cause is greater than pleasure, something he believes Molina could never understand.
The film's plotline ventures outside of the confines of the cell for only a few brief moments during the film, some of which occur when Molina visits the prison's warden, revealing another side to his character's motivations, and some of which recount the tales he spins to ease the boredom and pain of incarceration. This format allows the two actors to play almost solely off one another, affording the chance to display their ample talents as dramatists capable of fully immersing themselves in their roles. Julia is sort of the straight man to Hurt's melodramatic and emotional Molina, but both actors shine in their performances. One of the most touching moments occurs when Arregui soils himself after becoming suspiciously ill, and Molina tenderly takes care of him. A sexual tension simmers underneath the proceedings, but what physical interaction takes place between the two is more an expression of true friendship and bonding in harsh conditions than lust.
Ultimately, Kiss of the Spider Woman leaves one with a feeling of hope, even as tragedy unfolds. As a director Babenco treats the political and sexual implications of the story with respect and skill, making the film a classic of its era. If you have yet to check it out, this new edition is definitely a good opportunity to visit a captivating and important moving picture. SEE ALSO: www.kissofthespiderwoman.com
SEE ALSO: www.citylightsmedia.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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