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September 16, 1985 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-09-16

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The Michigan Daily Monday, September 16, 1985 Page 6

'Spider Woman' res

By Byron Bull
ON ONE SIDE of Kiss of the
Spider Woman criticism you have
self-declared intelligentsia-who are
automatically predisposed to consider
any foreign film a few notches above
anything domestic, who take the film
to heart as beautiful, vulpinely artsy
tragedy, while on the other side are
the more pedestrian
moviegoers-who are inherently
distrustful of anything that smacks of
esoterics, even if it's in their own
language, who suggest it is a preten-
tious, overwrought hackpiece. The
truth of course is somewhere in bet-
ween, with valid arguments on both
sides; though the film is severely

flawed, it is as compelling and absor-
bing as anything to play on a local
screen in the last six months.
The setting is a cold, dark cell in a
prison complex somewhere down in
South America-probably Argentina
though it's never stated-where live
two men so completely opposite in
temperament and outlook that the few
feet between their bunks might as
well be thousands of miles.
Valentin (Raul Julia) is an interned
revolutionary, all scarred and hun-
ched over from constant physical in-
terrogation, his pragmatic,
dispassionate outlook turned
despairingly black. Across from him,
on the side of the cell crowded with
dozens of bottles of make-up, colorful
print silks, and stills of old Hollywood
starlets, is Molina (William Hurt), A
flvilous, nervy aging
queen, imprisoned for

corrupting a minor. For
Vanetin's imprisonment is a cruel
twist of fate-rotting in a hole for
relatively minor contributions to a
cause he'd already grown disenchan-
ted with. He's filled with a sneering
contempt for the fussing priss of his
cellmate, who is more concerned
about dirty bedsheets than the
prisoner across the hall being clubbed
nightly by the guards.
The two men pick at each other,
teasing and criticizing one another,
yet they are drawn together nightly
by Molina's recollections of his
favorite old movies-often quite awful
ones-that proivide the only escape
from their grim reality.
One film they discuss, seen in vivid
flashbacks, is a tawdry old Nazi
propaganda pieces, a romantic
thriller so garishly overstyled and

rts on power
overacted it's virtually self- men learn from each other-Mo
parodying. Yet it becomes very im- finding some of the nobility that u
portant to both men, not only as enter- to fire Valentin, who himself lea
tainment, but as a crucial, pivotal something of tenderness and capac
point of self-redemption in each man's for fantasy that Molina thrives on.
personal, tragic destiny. Artistic license is granted, bu
The original novel by Manuel seems curious that Babencoa
Puig-an Argentinian writer who Schrader would stick so reverently
originally started out as a filmmaker the novel in detail but essentiallyj
in Rome before switching tison the author's tone, which %
mediums-was a precisely calculated probably at the root of what inspi
but tender little fable about how these Puig to write the novel in the f
two desperate men found some frugal place.
source of solice, and even a tiny The crucial film within the fi
precious bit of redemption, through meticulously rendered and - wicke
each other's private identification farcical, throws the film too far
with Molina's movies, not unlike track, engaging in so many cam
Woody Allen's similarly bittersweet shenanigans that when the focus sw
and self-romanticising The Purple ches back and forth betweent
Rose of Cairo. Director Hector remembered film and the story oft
Babenco and scenarist Leonard two men-which itself is laden w
Schrader, in paring down the stodgy melodrama-the flip-flopp
novel-already very script-like-to tone negates much of the stor
the bare narrative bones, have left potential power.
most of the dialogue intact, capturing What makes Kiss strike up inten
the details of Puig's work, but without emotion is William Hurt, whosea
any of its heart. sorption with the role is so consum
The thrust here is in "humanist" and intense he just grabs you a
drama, the change being that the two 'pulls you in. For all the hype, Willia

t it
ly to

of one
Hurt is not an actor blessed with a
chameleon versatility; he's so bur-
dened with a formidable screen
presence, by his signatory speech
rhythms and intensely jerky
movements, that he's about as able to
submerse himself into a role as
Bogart or Burt Lancaster. But that
works to his advantage here. Any
good character actor could have ren-
dered Molina on screen, but then Kiss
would have been merely a sincere but
stuffy piece, or neo-romanticism.
What Hurt does is stand at the cen-
ter of the film, sucking in all of its
scattered ideas and sentiment. In his
blinding absorption with his perfor-
mance, Hurt thinks so consciously
about his every utterance and step up
can practically hear him ticking
I doubt if Babenco was conscious of
this when he cast Hurt, and I very
much doubt Hurt was consciously
aware of what he was doing - he's
always come across as a thoughtful but
never particularly cognizant actor.
But the end result works marvelously,
especially with Hurt buffeted by Raul
Julia's bright, heartfelt, though much
more naturalistic, performance.

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G IVEN: a box and two.actors. This
was the inspiration for Pan-
dora'sBox, an evening of one-act
plays by three local Ann Arbor
writers, performed this past weekend
at the Performance Network.
With such a wide-open framework
within which to work, and the talented
individuality of the writers them-
selves, one would expect three com-
pletely different plays. This was not
the case.
Though separately the acts were
complete and able to stand by them-
selves, each act took turns, as it were,
playing the devil's advocate for the
other two. This interplay between the
three plays served to strengthen the
polarized themes of trust/mistrust,
dependence/independence, frien-
dship/hate that formed the threads of
the greater tapestry surrounding
The first in the series was Al Sjoer-
dsma's "The Big Box Boogie." Set in
some back alley of the world, Sjoer-
dsma presented us with two bums,
played by David Bernstein and
Raphael Metzger. Their world is not
friendly; they seem almost numb to
their surroundings except for paltry
humor left to them. In such a tran-
sient world, their friendship is their
mutual support. Or is it? Suddenly ,a
box invades their territory and their
friendship is tested. What is in the
box? Could it be a treasure enabling
them to escape from their surropn-
dings? Whatever it is the two swear to
share it between themselves, as only
good friends would do. Of course the
box serves only as a tool of mistrust
and manipulation to break the bond of
friendship between the two bums,
leaving each less satisfied than before
the box arrived, proving their frien-
dship to be as temporary and empty
as the world surrounding them.
Though "The Big Box Boogie" left
the pity and black humor of its world
like an unsavory taste in our mouths,
it became long-winded and repetitive
as it progressed, driving home its
point to a fault. The audience has un-
doubtedly seen this universal theme
of desperation before, which is fine as
long as the playwright has something
to add.He does, but it's a little much
and heavyhanded.
Next was Rachel Urist's "Take
Two." Two actresses of opposite tem-
peraments, Liz and Binky, have been
assigned to create an improvization
around a box. Sound familiar? This
play within a play within a play ex-
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withina picture that fascinate tosno
end. The audience was left a bit sur-
prised at the end, but it worked well(
though it could have been tightened up

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