Drama [based on the novel by Manuel Puig] centers upon the relationship between cellmates in a South American prison. Molina, played by William Hurt, is an effeminate gay locked up for having molested a young boy, while Valentin, played by Raul Julia, is a professional journalist in for a long term due to his radical political activities under a fascist regime.
They have literally nothing in common except their societal victimization, but to pass the time Molina periodically entertains Valentin with accounts of old motion pictures.
Puig kicked his book off with a ravishing account of the 1940s horror pic Cat People, but director Hector Babenco and scenarist Leonard Schrader have opted to concentrate on two purely imaginary films to intertwine with the narrative.
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.
1985: Best Actor (William Hurt).
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay