Elizabeth Bishop was no stranger to loss or loneliness. Her most recognizable poem, "One Art," begins with the line, "The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster."
When Bishop was eight months old, her father died, and shortly thereafter, her mother was institutionalized with mental illness. Effectively orphaned at the age of five, she was bounced around by well-intentioned relatives until she was sent to boarding school at the age of fourteen.
The poet once described herself as "the loneliest person who ever lived." Despite those early losses and her profound loneliness, Bishop graduated Vassar College, was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1949, and won both the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1956 and the National Book Award in 1970.
"Reaching for the Moon," chronicles the American poet's tumultuous relationship with Brazilian architect, Lota de Macedo Soares (Gloria Pires), the daughter of a wealthy and prominent political family. Suffering from a bout of writer's block, Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) travels to Brazil in 1951 to visit an old college friend, Mary Morse (Tracy Middendorf) who is currently living with the architect on Lota's stunning estate, Samambaia, near Rio de Janeiro. Expecting to stay for only a few days, Bishop is forced to stay on when she is suddenly taken ill and unable to continue her travels.
Although the personalities of the introverted, priggish poet and the headstrong, extroverted architect couldn't be more different and their initial impression of each other more hostile, the two opposites are soon attracted to each other. The resulting love triangle between the three women continues throughout the next fifteen years, ironically becoming the longest period of domestic stability in Bishop's life. During that time, Bishop hones her craft, stumbles into alcoholism, and delves into an abyss of melancholy.
Veteran Brazilian filmmaker Bruno Baretto skillfully explores the complicated connections between these extraordinary women and highlights the stark contrasts between them. Australian actress, Miranda Otto, gives Bishop a frosty, hard exterior while still allowing the audience to see her insecurities and fragile, creative inner-self. Brazilian actress, Gloria Pires, portrays Lota as an earthy hedonist whose passion and appetite for life is never satisfied. American actress, Tracy Middendorf as Mary Morse, is pitch perfect in her role as the pretty, pathetic, pawn in this gnarly, chess game. Baretto gives all three talented actresses their opportunity to shine.
The sets and costumes are a real treat for devotees of mid-twentieth century, modern decor and fashion. The traditional grandeur of Rio's government banquet halls provided a perfect contrast to the sleek, modern, minimalist interiors of Lota's estate. The tailored, feminine dresses of the fifties worn by Bishop are all cool blues and grays, and the androgynous pantsuits worn by Lota are warm, earth tones. Every detail is carefully selected to recreate the period.
The cinematography is glorious in its depiction of mid-century Rio de Janeiro and its nearby tropical landscapes. The sumptuous, garden paradise of Samambaia is lush, elegant and tranquil while the 50's and 60's recreation of Rio is alive and hectic. Computer generated images recreate the squalor of Rio's Guanabara Bay before it was transformed into Lota's modernist vision of Flamengo Park. Overall, this film is a sensual feast of color and passion and life in Brazil.
"Reaching for the Moon" will be screened as part of The Helene and Stephen Weicholz Global Film Series for An Appalachian Summer Festival at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The pre-film talk begins at 7:00 p.m. and the film will follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.
Tickets for the Global Cinema Series are $10 and are general admission. Purchase a ticket to each film and receive $1 off each ticket. Those who purchase a ticket to the Lisa Fischer Concert on July 23 will receive a free admission to the film. All Appalachian Summer Festival event tickets can be purchased by calling or visiting the Schaefer Center box office at (800) 841-2787 or (828) 262-4046. Tickets can also be purchased online at appsummer.org.
About An Appalachian Summer Festival
An Appalachian Summer Festival is presented annually in July by the university’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs. Beginning as a small chamber music series, the festival has emerged as one of the nation’s most highly regarded, multi-disciplinary art festivals, designated one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society. True to a university-based arts festival, educational experiences such as lectures and opportunities to meet artists, artistic directors, competition jurors and other experts, have always been an important component of festival programming.
Festival Corporate Sponsors:
Westglow Resort and Spa, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, Northern Trust, McDonald’s of Boone, Mast General Store, Storie Street Grille, Goodnight Brothers, Boone Area Visitors Bureau, Sky Best Communications, Scholars Bookshop at the University Bookstore, Hotel Equities, Holiday Inn Express-Boone, Nationwide—Charles Eyler Agency, Peabody’s Wine & Beer Merchants, Chetola Resort, Creekside Electronics and Boone Ford-Lincoln.
Festival media sponsors include:
WBTV, WCYB, Charter Media, Winston-Salem Journal, Greensboro News & Record, PBS Charlotte, WNC Magazine, High Country Radio, WHKY AM 1290, WDAV 89.9FM, WFDD 88.5FM, WETS 89.5FM, WASU 90.5FM and High Country 365.