Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)
Despite the fact that it’s based on a novel I first became familiar with Kiss of the Spider Woman though a play version. I know that for the most part the narrative is one I enjoyed yet there were a few reasons I avoided the film version for some time.
Most of it has to do with the fact that the film in production terms and representational terms ends up in a very weird cultural limbo. Now in the interest of full disclosure: I am Brazilian so in many ways I disqualify myself but bear with me and try to understand my perspective.
The setting according to the text is always vaguely South American and surely for many reasons dictatorships were rampant on the continent for a time but the signage, location, supporting talent and director (via naturalization) are all Brazilian. It’s a muddled world wherein I see great Brazilian actors look less than stellar for the most part as they struggle with their broken English. You have late great Raul Julia doing a wonderful job but who generally gets overlooked in this film, except by the National Board of Review, and as brilliant as William Hurt is his name is Molina and he has no accent and isn’t designated as a gringo. So those factors along with Brazilians playing German in the film clips don’t ruin the film they just make suspension of disbelief a chore at times.
I’d absolutely love to see this (as I would most stories) in the languages intended whether Spanish or Portuguese and German and French.
Other than that the film is a great tale of unlikely friendship and loyalty, however, another bugaboo is there’s a line where Molina seems to indicate he’s more transgendered at heart than homosexual, so perhaps the description is not accurate. The only difference that really makes is in a public perception and social awareness. If this is looked at as William Hurt playing a transgendered man rather than crassly classifying “just another actor winning an award for playing gay” it would be better for the whole GLBT community so that people would know there are differences amongst the letters in that acronym. To continue to merely characterize the character as homosexual does a disservice to Hurt’s performance and in this day an age a community though I recognize that when the film was made there was a lack of differentiation.
But the only other issue I had was the prolonged and foreseeable ending. It truly is a good piece despite issues I had with it. That baggage was mostly my own and those things didn’t turn me off from the film.
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 4/1