Lucy Barreto

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Reaching for the Moon Review


Good

Based on a true story, this Brazilian drama has a lush authenticity as it tells a story that has strong historical relevance even as it sometimes slips into heightened melodrama. Filmmaker Bruno Barreto recreates the events with sensitivity, bringing the real people to life in complex, emotional ways. So while it's sometimes a bit tormented, it's also fascinating.

In 1951, American poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) leaves her boyfriend (Treat Williams) in New York to travel to Rio de Janeiro to visit her old university friend Mary (Tracy Middendorf) and her new girlfriend, the noted architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Gloria Pires). They live in idyllic splendour in Lota's country estate, where the painfully shy Elizabeth is pried out of her shell by an overt display of affection from Lota. When Mary gets jealous, Lota agrees to adopt a baby, as long as she can keep Elizabeth as well. So they create a rather tense family together, which is strained badly by emotions as the years go by. But they find common ground when they get involved in the election campaign of their politician friend Carlos Lacerda (Marcello Airoldi).

This three-way relationship is clearly never going to last, but these women give it a go. Lota's complete rejection of society's rules is intriguing as it leads to some of her more iconic design work, but her Latina temperament also gets the best of her as she can't bear to let Elizabeth out of her sight. Intriguingly, the script reflects but never exaggerates repressed 1950s and 60s attitudes, layering in all kinds of dark meaning between every line of dialogue. Which makes every scene feel rather gloomy.

Continue reading: Reaching for the Moon Review

Four Days in September Review


Weak
The story may be true, but that doesn't make this tale of four hapless Brazilians who kidnapped the American ambassador in 1969 any better. While the picture wants desperately to be a true version of The Crying Game it isn't much more competent than an installment of The Bad News Bears. Amazingly, the complete idiocy of the young revolutionaries who kidnap the ambassador (Alan Arkin) is matched only by that of the law enforcement officials who try to save him. Dreadfully boring, poorly paced, and acted lackadaisically. Definitely a miss.

Continue reading: Four Days in September Review

Bossa Nova Review


Grim
It's a love octagon (I think) in the Brazilian romantic comedy Bossa Nova, though the appearance of two English speakers (Amy Irving stars, Stephen Tobolowsky has a welcome supporting role) makes you wonder how this film ever got put together. Irving in fact plays a widowed teacher of English to the adults of Rio de Janiero, somehow drawing the romantic gaze of at least two locals. Never mind that each character also has another love interest, and they have two love interests, and they have two love interests... and so on. The story isn't so much confusing as it is implausible, but I suppose that's what romance is all about. Skip the story and just gawk at the scenery in Rio.
Lucy Barreto

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