Friday, June 28, 2013

Reaching for the Moon (Flores Raras)

Flores Raras (Reaching for the Moon) (Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo), dir. Bruno Barreto, 2013, Brazil, 118 min., in English without subtitles and in Portuguese with English subtitles 
Friday, June 28, 6:45 pm @ Castro • U.S. west coast première

Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto)
at Lota’s home in Brazil
The opening title sequence of Reaching for the Moon has more logos than a NASCAR jacket, reflecting the participation of at least five production companies and several other outfits that had to be noted before the film begins. The title itself is a bit complex, too: the film is based on the novel Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares (Flores raras e banalíssimas: A história de Lota de Macedo Soares e Elizabeth Bishop) by Carmen Oliveira, English translation by Neil K. Besner. The original Brazilian title for the film was Flores raras, but IMDb indicates that it will be released in Brazil in August 2013 under the title Você Nunca Disse Eu Te Amo (in English, “You never said I love you”), as well as being released worldwide under the English title Reaching for the Moon. Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares were real people: the first a poet laureate of the United States and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the National Book Award, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; the latter an architect from a prominent family in Brazil. They really did have a long love affair in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but most of the day-to-day details are fictionalized.

Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto)
and Lota de Macedo Soares
(Glória Pires) at the beach
Elizabeth Bishop set off in 1951 to sail around South America, but only got as far as Santos, Brazil, where a brief stay with her friend, an American expatriate named Mary, turned into a 15-year affair with Mary’s lover, a Brazilian architect named Lota. Lota was very much everything a 1950’s stereotype of a woman was not: she was headstrong, independent, creative, and opinionated, insisting on living and working in her own right rather than fading into the shadows of a husband. The love affair between Bishop and Soares was tempestuous at best, feeding Bishop’s alcoholism, but both women continued to work on their projects: Bishop’s poems and travelogues and Soares’ grand plans for the world-class Flamengo Park (Aterro do Flamengo, or officially Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes) in Rio de Janeiro, among other things.

Reaching for the Moon captures the attraction and the tension between these two iconic women, giving us an insight into their character and disposition, in the course of telling a remarkable story. It’s a story with some definite ups and downs, not a sugar-coated rom-com, and with some slow patches, but beautifully played and filmed. Highly recommended.

IMDb page

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