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REACHING FOR THE MOON

SYNOPSIS:
Based on the true love story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares. Frustrated poet Elizabeth Bishop travels to Brazil and encounters the beguiling architect Lota de Macedo Soares. Initial hostilities make way for a complicated yet long-lasting love affair that dramatically alters Bishop's relationship to the world around her. Anchored by magnificent lead performances from Miranda Otto and Glória Pires, Reaching for the Moon is an intimate snapshot of the search for inspiration, wherever and however you find it.

Review by Louise Keller:
The passionate and troubled love affair between reserved American poet Elizabeth Bishop and flamboyant Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares is a yin-yang affair in this engaging bio pic; the performances by Miranda Otto and Glória Pires being nothing short of sensational. Otto and Pires are as different as the characters they play and both sparkle in challenging roles.

The art of losing isn't hard to master, says Elizabeth Bishop (Otto), describing herself to be the loneliest person that ever lived, with a commitment to pessimism so she will never be disappointed. Although leaving her hometown of New York in the autumn of 1951 for Rio de Janeiro is intended to simply be a temporary change, it becomes a turning point in her life, after meeting Lota de Macedo Soares.

The instant dislike that Elizabeth and the passionate Lota share quickly turns to lust after they meet and a sensual and sexual relationship begins. The early scenes when barbs are slung and disdain is obvious, are some of the most entertaining. The fact that Lota is already in a lesbian relationship with Elizabeth's school friend Mary (Tracy Middendorf), prompts Lota to retort 'What kind of life can you expect if you put friendship before love?'

The lush setting, beautiful gardens and spectacular house that Lota has designed that gives the sense of being outside, contribute greatly to the film's ambience; the shape of the ceiling follows the curve of the mountains. Lota blows up a mountain for Elizabeth and designs and builds for her a workspace filled with light and an inspiring jungle view.

It is a relationship of opposites: Mary is shy and insecure about her poetry and talent while Lota revels in confidence, embracing her creativity, demanding everything and declaring 'I was born an architect'. Director Bruno Barreto carefully deals with the dynamics of all the relationships - the fact that Lota maintains her relationship with Mary, as well as that with Elizabeth prompts an unusual ménage a trois, the latter two barely managing to tolerate each other.

Life is far from simple: Mary and Lota adopt a baby, Lota designs her dream Flamenco Park, working with right wing politician Carlos Lacerda (Marcello Airoldi) while Elizabeth wins the Pulitzer Prize and starts drinking heavily. The mix of vulnerability and self loathing is beautifully portrayed by Otto. Elizabeth drinks when she doesn't get what she wants; if she does get what she wants, she drinks because she is sure she is going to lose it. Drinking scotch, she declares, equates to 'crying' in English. Everything begins to fall apart - from Elizabeth and Lota's relationship to the political coup that removes the government.

Beyond the fascinating subject matter and characterisations, the strength of the film lies in the performances - Otto has never been better and Pires (in her first English speaking role) strides into our hearts with great bounds. The backdrop of Rio de Janeiro with its tropical beauty provides a tangible character of its own - an exotic landscape on which this tumultuous tale of artistic passion and carnal lust plays out.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

REACHING FOR THE MOON (M)
(Brazil, 2013)

Flores Raras

CAST: Glória Pires, Miranda Otto, Tracy Middendorf, Marcello Airoldi, Lola Kirke, Tânia Costa, Marianna Mac Niven, Marcio Ehrlich, Treat Williams

PRODUCER: Lucy Barreto, Paula Barreto

DIRECTOR: Bruno Barreto

SCRIPT: Matthew Chapman, Julie Sayres (based on the novel "Flores raras e banalíssimas" by Carmen L. Oliveira, Carolina Kotscho)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mauro Pinheiro Jr.

EDITOR: Leticia Giffoni

MUSIC: Marcelo Zarvos

PRODUCTION DESIGN: José Joaquim Salles

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Leap Frog Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 17, 2014







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