Kiss of the Spider Woman & r & & r & by TAMMY MARSHALL & r & & r & & lt;span class="dropcap" & N & lt;/span & ewly restored and distributed by the Independent Cinema Restoration Archive, Kiss of the Spider Woman opens with William Hurt as an effeminate homosexual named Luis Molina recounting his favorite cinematic love story to a skeptical Valentin Arregui (Raul Julia). Both men share a jail cell somewhere in Brazil. Arregui is there as a political prisoner; Molina, for statutory rape.

Annoyed at first by all the melodrama, Arregui pokes fun at Molina's love story about a beautiful French woman (Sonia Braga), a famous stage actress of the 1940s who falls in love with a powerful Nazi who just happens to be in charge of the occupation in France. Arregui soon realizes that Molina is recounting a Nazi propaganda film and voices his disgust. Molina replies, "I don't care, I think it's beautiful." Soon it becomes clear that while Arregui values politics and practicality, Molina stands for romantic escapism. Spider Woman, however, has less to do with politics or romance than with simple human decency.

Arregui is fighting for political freedom against the Fascists; meanwhile, Molina dreams of finding a real man. Then the prison warden complicates matters by hammering Arregui for information; he poisons Arregui's food and promises Molina a pardon if he can convince Arregui to talk.

Director Hector Babenco utilizes extreme close-ups to emphasize the theatricality of Molina's story. Flamboyantly, Molina prances around the jail cell in sheets wrapped to look like kimonos and head scarves. In his swishiness, Hurt's Molina is more like Robin Williams in The Bird Cage then like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia. Yet without the over-the-top character that Hurt created, Molina and Arregui wouldn't have collided in style. The two opposites wouldn't have merged and then reversed, and the cinematic version of Manuel Puig's novel about the desperation of the human heart wouldn't have been as effective.

As it was, The Kiss of the Spider Woman won four Oscars in 1986 for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Hurt), Best Director and Best Picture. Rated R

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