Happy Birthday Héctor Babenco, director, who is 67 today (7 February, 2013).
Babenco was nominated for a Best Director Oscar in 1986 for crafting the great masterpiece Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Sydney Pollack won that year for Out Of Africa).
An interesting life story: Babenco’s father was an Argentine gaucho and his mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant. He lived in Europe from 1964-1968 and in1969, moved permanently to São Paulo. He made his name with his 1981 film about Brazil’s abandoned children called Pixote - A lei do mais fraco.
Chosen to direct Spider Woman partly because it was filmed on location in São Paulo, Babenco went on to direct film such as Ironweed, for which both Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson scored Oscar nominations, and At Play in the Fields of the Lord which starred Kathy Bates, Daryl Hannah, Tom Berenger, and John Lithgow.
But it’s for Kiss of the Spider Woman he is best known for, and rightly so. Here’s an excerpt from Quetin Crisp’s review of Babenco’s great masterpiece:
Molina is dead, and Valentin is in the prison hospital, burned and bleeding from his latest round of torture. All is lost, except imagination.
In a morphine dream, Valentin (Raul Julia) is visited by his girlfriend Marta (Sonia Braga). She takes his hand, leads him past the guards and out into the sun. They are at the Spider Woman’s tropical island, where an unattended rowboat is waiting to take them across a sunset sea. As they row away, they speak the last lines of the movie in voiceover:
VALENTIN: Oh how much I love you. That’s the one thing I’ve never said, because I’m so afraid of losing your love forever.
MARTA: That will never happen here. This dream is short, but this dream is happy.
The Spanish-language trailer for Kiss of the Spider Woman (below) starts out much the same as the final English language trailer (below-below) until the film’s relatively brief moments of violence unfurl one after the other and then, the correct pronunciations of “Raul Julia” and “Sonia Braga” are revealed.
Manuel Puig died on this day (July 22) in 1990, following complications from a gall bladder operation. His novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, remains his best-known work, acclaimed long before it was made into the magnificent movie of the same name.
Puig was present throughout the movie shoot, dropping one bon mot after next including “La Hurt is so bad she will probably win an Oscar”.
Reading the book evokes little of the movie’s mood, but Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman is an essential item on every bookcase.
The incomparable Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) shared a birthday with Jesus and was played by John Hurt in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant, adapted from Crisp’s memoir of the same name.
The Queen of interwar Old Compton Street, he starred with Helen Mirren, among others, on the London stage before moving to the United States where his dinner parties became legendary. He played Queen Elizabeth I opposite Tilda Swinton in 1992’s Orlando and appeared as a party guest in a scene of the same year’s Philadelphia.
Imperiously disparaging about everything from AIDS (”a fad”) to Princess Diana (”vulgar”), he wrote a classic series of film reviews for Christopher Street magazine, some of which are reprinted here at Outrate. For more information, please visit the Quentin Crisp website, or purchase the anthology of Quentin Crisp film reviews, “How To Go To The Movies”, here.
June was a month of debauchery.
During it, I watched two films in one week, one wantonly with a movie maniac and the other in the line of duty with your Mr. Steele. The one that my movie-mad friend chose was called Man, Woman and Sin. Two days later, I saw Mr. Babenco’s masterpiece, Kiss of the Spider Woman. Though this was screened in an upper room on Broadway for the most highbrow critics in the land and is as sordid a tale as you will ever find (however hard you try), the woman sitting next to me laughed delightedly throughout the entire two hours of its showing time.
Kiss has glaring faults but none that, in my opinion, make it ludicrous.
Perhaps we should deal with these errors at once and quickly so that we may dwell at length on the film’s remarkable virtues.
Did you know: Kiss of the Spider Woman was the first independent film to be nominated for a handful of major Oscars? The acclaim that justifiably came the way of this great masterpiece, released in 1985, paved the way for the scores of independent films that have risen to the top of the awards season ever since.