The Critics' Corner: KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN
Academy Award to William Hurt as Best Actor; nominations for Best Director, Picture, Adapted Screenplay
BAFTA (British Academy) Award for Best Actor (William Hurt)
Golden Globe nominees: Best Motion Picture - Drama, Actor (Hurt and Raul Julia), Supporting Actress (Sonia Braga)
William Hurt won Best Actor awards from the London Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics; he and Raul Julia shared the National Board of Review Award. Hurt also received Italy's David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor.
Kiss of the Spider Woman won the Special Distinction Award for Best Foreign Film at the first Independent Spirit Awards in 1986.
Best Film, Seattle International Film Festival; Special Jury Distinguished Award to Hector Babenco at the Tokyo International Film Festival
Critic Reviews: KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN
"William Hurt's magnificent performance elevates the art of make-believe to greatness."
- Rex Reed, New York Post, July 1985
"If Mr. Hurt has never been so daringly extroverted on the screen before, Mr. Julia has never been so restrained. And they meet halfway in a manner that is electrifying. Their teamwork, choreographed with a relentless, escalating rhythm by Mr. Babenco, never falters...."
- Janet Maslin, New York Times, July 26, 1985
"William Hurt...creates a character utterly unlike anyone else he has ever played--a frankly theatrical character, exaggerated and mannered--yet he never seems to be reaching for effects. Raul Julia, sweaty and physical in the early scenes, gradually reveals a poetry that makes the whole movie work. And Sonia Braga, called upon to satirize bad acting, makes a perfect Spider Woman."
- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, August 9, 1985
"Individual reactions to the work overall will depend to a great extent on feelings about Hurt's performance. Some will find him mesmerizing, others artificially lowkeyed. By contrast, Julia delivers a very strong, straight and believable performance as an activist who at first has little patience with Hurt's predilection for escapism, but finally meets him halfway. After the raw street power of Pixote , Babenco has employed a slicker, more choreographed style here. Shot entirely in Sao Paulo, film boasts fine lensing."
- Variety, 1985
"Essentially a homosexual wish fantasy about how the love of a real man, however brief, can be transforming--purifying."
- J. Walcott, Texas Monthly, 1985
"The picture tries and fails to create...the transformation of a gay man and a straight man through their understanding of one another. ... Audiences feel safe because this is not just a story of two men who fall in love and have sex. There is redeeming political significance to justify the affair. The film version leaves out perhaps the most crucial aspect of Puig's novel, Valentin's realization that homosexual men needn't adopt the sexist attitudes widely held by heterosexual men about women."
- Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet (Revised edition, Harper & Row, 1987)
"The performances of Hurt and Julia win votes by the minute, Babenco directs their growing relationship with subtlety and depth.... A film of fine balance and tone, not least in the dramatic turnaround ending."
- JG, Time Out Film Guide (2000)
"Reissued for no particular reason--unless its 16th anniversary is an occasion of note--Hector Babenco's uninspired film is a literal-minded tribute to the power of escapism. Babenco has no gift for staging Molina's fantasies, despite the on-target casting of Sonia Braga as Molina's movie-self; they're flat, wavering between evocations of old movies and parodies thereof. And Hurt's performance--which might be the best example of why one should never mistake Oscar® bait for art--is appallingly self-congratulatory, every pause choked over, every heavenward eye-flutter a study in deceit. True, he's playing a character whose life is a performance, but Hurt's so caught up in Molina's faded-belle theatrics he can't be bothered to show us the man beneath the mask."
- Sam Adams, Philadelphia City Paper, July 12-19, 2001
"Some distance has only improved 1985's Kiss of the Spider Woman. At the time, the film created something of a sensation, pro and con, mostly for its politics, perceived as shallow onscreen and off. It can be seen clearly now for what it is, a melodrama and a good one. Think of it as a gay Casablanca ."
- Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2001
Compiled by Rob Nixon