Raul Julia did not receive and Oscar nomination for portraying Valentin Arregui in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Raul Julia's Valentin and William Hurt's Luis Molina are from completely opposite worlds and lives even though at the moment they both share the same cell in the same South American prison. We see the incredible difference of these two men from the opening scene of the film. Starting out we see Hurt as Molina making broad gestures in a decorative robe telling dramatically a tale of romance, but on the opposite side we see Valentin on his bed crawled into a ball in darkness with sweat and blood stains on the back of his rather ratty shirt. In all of Hurt's long elegant description of the romantic film, Julia tears through into the scene from the darkness with a simple decidedly unromantic cynical joke.
Raul Julia's role early on is that of the cynic against the romance of Hurt's Molina, and their dynamic together is what makes the film as special as it is. Julia is excellent here bringing to life fully Valentin here who at first is a very bitter, and angry man. Valentin who is in prison as a political prisoner for his involvement in an underground movement against the government, and just before we first see him has repeatedly been tortured in the prison as a form of interrogation. Julia is intense as he portrays the angers and frustrations he has over being treated the way he has been, and Julia effectively shows how it really does consume in a way that brings out his cynicism as well as his own way of lashing out at Molina, and his beloved Nazi propaganda film.
In every way that Hurt portrays the sentimentality found in Molina's dreams and fantasy Julia comes back with Valentin's harsh realities. Every statement by Molina, Julia fires back with a cold efficiency showing Valentin's discontent in the cell. Julia is blunt and to the point all the while in his performance that contrasts Hurt's performance perfectly. Where Hurt early shows Molina's head seems to be in the skies, Julia though always shows that instead Valentin cannot escape the present. There is always a certain drive there that makes always on target as a man for his cause. Julia is especially good in the way he shows that Valentin is at times very much on the watch for tricks, as he sharply questions whenever something seems slightly off.
What is so special in the film though comes in the way both actors move away from their initial ways early on where Molina starts to open up more about his own realities, whereas Valentin does start to indulge a bit more in the fantasy expressed by Molina. Julia is excellent here because he makes this transition subtle one, that never just moves his character one way. He never cheats his character of Valentin, he moves Valentin's transition to opening up about himself slow deliberate very much fitting a character who endured great torture just to keep his secrets. Whenever Valentin does open up a little Julia realistically portrays it, it never feels forced in any way, because even in these moments he never completely lets go the harsher tones brought upon from Valentin's history.
In the moments when Valentin does open up more later on Julia creates a complex and moving portrait of the man. He creates a somber showing of where the anger really does derive from that is seen so strongly in his other moments as he opens up to Molina about one of his lovers. Just like Hurt, he makes this man's past something that both comforts and haunts him as well. There is a depression in Julia's portrayal over not being able to see the woman he truly loves ever again, but interestingly shows even a bit of shame in his performance as well because the woman is technically against his own revolutionary ideals. Julia realizes this past in just a few moments brilliantly, that really brings to life where this man came from.
The most powerful moments of course come from the interactions between the two men. Their relationship is never made simple by either actor. Both actors are pitch perfect in creation of the relationship. At first they are, as I said before, opposites as Julia makes Valentin tower emotionally over Molina in his way by either attacking him in petty or more proper fashions, that Julia does show result both from Valentin's background as well as just his state that is forced upon him. Slowly but surely the men come closer together, but what is so fascinating about the two actor's portrayal of this is that it is not one sided. Both men influence each other to really open up into their deepest needs, and desires, as well as it changes more toward the other's view without completely giving up on their original feelings either.
Julia shows that Valentin comes to understand Molina's own love of the fantasy, and the escape that it provides from their difficult realities. It is a beautiful transformation that Julia shows as he expresses so well the relief the troubled Valentin finds in the fantasies created by Molina and himself. It is a truly wonderful sense of awe both actors create in showing how the men create these adventures in their own minds. Eventually the two men come to an understanding among one another, and begin to really understand one another. Again the both Hurt and Julia are marvelously in showing the two coming together. The two never simply the relationship but rather than ease into it naturally.
The two actors turn their relationship into something truly special. It is a deeply moving portrayal as the men find themselves finally understanding the others. Julia just as Hurt does show that the two connect in more than any attraction actually, since Julia never really ever portrays it that even though technically speaking it becomes sexual that is not really the important part of it. It is instead frankly purer understanding he portrays that he has with Molina that brings him into truly loving the man. Their relationship in the end is not made memorable through their single sexual scene, which the film carefully and quickly deals with anyway, but rather the mark they leave on one another that the actors brings to life so well. Raul Julia's performance is simply incredible, absolutely succeeding with every aspect of his character, and as well working with perfect harmony with William Hurt to create an unforgettable impression.