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Dec 4, 2013

For the past five years I have been angling for a way back to Brazil and particularly to the astonishing city of Rio de Janeiro. And now that I have watched a new film called Reaching for the Moon, I want to return in a time machine so that I can take in the remarkable city as it was in the 1950s when revolution was in the air and social mores came tumbling down. In director Bruno Barreto’s new film, Miranda Otto portrays the real-life American poet Elizabeth Bishop, a woman who can make any social setting uncomfortable – in any city, in any country. She is a woman who is ill at ease in her own skin and leaving America to visit her friend Mary in Brazil doesn’t change any of that. In fact, it just makes it worse.

BRUNO BARRETO podcast excerpt: "Elizabeth Bishop didn't get out of her own way to be nice or be liked. She was an uncompromising bitch in the best sense of the word! She wanted to be liked for what she wrote, not who she was."
MIRANDA OTTO podcast excerpt: "I never saw Elizabeth as a bitch or any of that. I loved her! It's hysterical when people say that to me. I completely understood what she was going through, understood why she would say certain things or behave in certain ways. To me, it made sense. I guess I'm a little reserved and WASPy myself. And I kind of identified with that, being in Rio among all the emotional and exuberant people. I became whiter every day!"
BRUNO BARRETO podcast excerpt: "Miranda did this in such a way that you can't take your eyes off Elizabeth Bishop on the big screen."

Oh, and there is the business of Elizabeth’s repressed sexuality – she is, we soon learn, a lesbian – adding an entirely different twist to the story. Pulling all this together is Miranda Otto as Elizabeth, and Glória Pires as Lota, who, when we meet her, is in the midst of a lesbian affair with Elizabeth’s college friend, Mary, played by Tracy Mittendorf. It is a romantic triangle rife with sexual tension, societal pressure, alcoholism and, less I forget, Elizabeth Bishop’s real life Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Joining me today is the director of Reaching for the Moon, Bruno Barretto – best known in the United States for Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands—and actress Miranda Otto, who my daughter – watching over my shoulder—recognized from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, in which she played Eowyn.

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