Dona Flor and her Two Wives

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master. I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent”. These verses are taken from the poem ‘One Art’, by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop. The Brazilian director Bruno Barreto (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Bossa Nova) now reveals the story behind it in the stunning, funny and witty Reaching for the Moon.

The film premiered last Friday in the UK as part of the 5th Brazilian Film Festival, in a sold out screening at the Odeon Covent Garden. The Festival is not finished yet: you could still catch a film tonight (Jango Report, Confetti) or the closing event tomorrow with A Brazilian Western.

In 118 minutes of breathtaking images of Rio de Janeiro and Petrópolis, Barreto presents the unconventional and exotic romance between two gifted women the Pulitzer’s winner Elizabeth Bishop and the Brazilian autodidact architect Lota de Macedo Soares, designer of Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro. Their relationship is part of a love triangle (which also includes the American Mary Morse) in a wealthy and carefree tropical Brazil in the 1950s.

Miranda Otto and Glória Pires are powerfully contrasting characters, and the director skillfully emphasises their differences in personality and appearance. Glória Pires, a Brazilian TV star, captivates the audience in her first English-speaking role with a convincing, saucy and confident Lota. Otto plays Bishop, a poet committed to pessimism and alcoholism.

The governor Carlos Lacerda, a very close friend of Lota, supported the military coup in Brazil in 1964. The coup was a turning point in the relationship between Bishop and Lota, because the latter sided with her friend. Bishop’s reluctance in embracing the dictatorship shook their romance to the core.

Despite the natural appeal for gay audiences and literature aficionados, Reaching for the Moon is much more than a lesbian tale or a writer’s biopic.  The director does not fly the LGBT flag.

The plot also avoids politically-loaded themes, and the coup is never analysed in detail, allowing the filmmaker to untangle the complex love story instead. Reaching for the Moon is set to become a reference in Barreto’s body of work.

The film will be released in the UK, the date is yet to be confirmed.

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