I think that I like the Brazilian (Portuguese) title, “Flores Raras”), better than the America (English) one, “Reaching for the Moon” for the 2013 Brazilian movie (almost entirely in English) about Elizabeth Bishop’s (1911-79; played by Miranda Otto [Lord of the Rings]) Brazilian sojourn with fairly butch architect Lota de Macedo Soares (1910-67; she is compellingly played by Gloria Pires).
On the advise of fellow poet Robert “Cal” Lowell (Treat Williams), Bishop sets off (in 1951) on a “geographic cure” to South American trip, stopping to visit her college (Vassar) friend Mary (Tracy Middenford) who is living with the no-nonsense Lota, whose family is rich and influential in Brazil.
While visiting the country (outside Ouro Preto) place Lota is building, Bishop, who is allergic to nuts, eats some cashew fruit and gets sick, missing the departure of her boat to her next port of call. Lota puts the move on the very uptight norteño, much to the dismay of Mary, who is eventually bought off by Lota buying a baby girl from a poor family for Mary.
Though an alcoholic with frequent writer’s block (and/or perfectionism), Bishop does some work that wins her a Pulitzer Prize (in 1956 for North and South-A Cold Spring) and, later (1970), a National Book Award for her Complete Poems (1969). Lota pushes forward her (modernist tending to brutalist) design for Flamengo Park (between Downtown Rio and Copacabana ) in Rio de Janeiro. (Rio’s Museum of Modern Art is in that park, btw.)
Eventually Bishop accepts a one-semester teaching post back in the US (at NYU; I think her first academic post was at the University of Washington, followed by Harvard) and Lota shows she is not as strong as she appears. Like 1950s representation of gay and lesbian liaisons, there is a tragic ending for the gender-nonconforming partner.
The movie is fairly conventional biopic, if closer to fact than many (based on a book by Carmen L. Oliveira), and about a lesbian poet, as few movies are! The melodrama is not imported to/for the movie. It is very scenic, shot beautifully by Mauro Pinheiro Jr. (Alice’s House).
Director Bruno Barreto earlier directed some of the few Brazilian films exported to the US: “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” (1976), “Four Days in September” (1997 also mostly in English, starring Alan Arkin as a kidnapped US ambassador), and “Bossa Nova” (2000). Pires is a star in Brazil, but largely unknown elsewhere and very impressive.
(BTW it is Lota who reaches for the moon in her highly elevated light fixtures for Flamengo Park. Bishop remains earthbound, though gaining some appreciation for Brazil and Latin American literature (especially Octavio Paz).)