Reaching For The Moon, a movie I co-wrote with Julie Sayres about American poet Elizabeth Bishop and her love affair with a Brazilian woman, architect Lota de Macedo Soares, opens in New York tomorrow at the Angelika and the Paris. If you want to take your mind off local politics -- which I do for a day or two -- this might be a good film to see.
Beautifully made by Oscar-nominated director Bruno Barreto, it's set in a stunningly shot Brazil of the 50s and 60s. Bishop, an orphan raised in comfortable but physically and emotionally chilly circumstances on the east coast of North America, found inspiration and a second home in a country whose national climate and character could not have been more different from her own.
As an Englishman who spends a lot of time in Brazil, I understood her attraction: the country has many problems, but lack of affection is not one of them. While being about a lesbian affair at a time when that wasn't easy even in Rio, the film is just as much about two creative forces who had opposite ways of approaching their work and their lives. The de facto marriage, which begins as symbiotic and fruitful, stimulating Bishop to write some of her best poetry, grows to include another woman, the adoption of a child, and the start of a family. In the end, with the addition of the fame that came with Bishop's Pulitzer and National Book Award, it all proved too much for one of them.
The movie already won "Best Picture" at Outfest Film Festival in Los Angeles and Frameline Festival in San Francisco, and was second audience favorite at the Berlin and Tribecca festivals. Miranda Otto plays the seemingly fragile Elizabeth, while Brazilian actress Gloria Pires plays the seemingly tougher Lota, and Treat Williams plays Robert Lowell. They're all great. (The script is based on Carmen L. Oliveira's book, Rare and Commonplace Flowers and a screenplay by Brazilian writer Carolina Kotscho.)