Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Kiss of the Spider Woman

Brazilian/US movie (1985). HB/FilmDallas. Pr David Weisman. Exec pr Francisco Ramalho Jr. Dir Hector Babenko. Screenplay Leonard Schrader. Based on El beso de la mujer arana (1976; trans Tomas Colchie as Kiss of the Spider Woman 1979 US) by Manuel Puig (1932-1990). Starring Sonia Braga (Leni/Marta/Spider Woman), William Hurt (Luis Molina), Raul Julia (Valentin Arregui). 121 mins. Colour and leached colour.

Incarcerated in an anonymous Latin American dictatorship are ostentatiously gay Molina and tough, straight journalist Valentin, imprisoned respectively for paedophilia and for aiding a revolutionary. To escape their misery, Molina recounts an old romantic Nazi-propaganda movie melodrama, scenes from which we see in colour leached to emulate sepia. Valentin gradually melts, and the two men become united in Escapism; although Molina, for privileges, has agreed to betray to their masters any information Valentin might let slip. The night before his parole, Molina tells a different tale, that of a beautiful woman held on an Island by the spiderweb she herself produces, and of how one day a man, Valentin, is washed up on the beach and would die were it not for her sweet kiss. That night the two men make love, and in the morning Valentin gives Molina a telephone number and a message. This secret Molina does not betray; freed, he calls the number and agrees to a meeting, not knowing he is under police surveillance. Caught in the crossfire, he refuses, having been given the gift of dignity by Valentin, to reveal the number to the police, and dies. For his part, although still under torture in prison, Valentin has been given by Molina the Dream of the Spider Woman to sustain him.

Resting almost entirely on the performances of Hurt and Julia, KOTSW is an exceptionally moving portrayal of the wellsprings of Fantasy. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.