Lesbian love affair in Rio
by Roberto Friedman
Many a literary lesbian with poetic leanings idolizes the late legendary poet Elizabeth Bishop, and for good reason. Though she was quite private about her life and her lesbian loves, Bishop took her place as a great American poet in a long line that stretches back to Emily Dickinson and through her mentor, the poet Marianne Moore . Opening Friday at Landmark's Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco, and Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, is a new film that at last takes Bishop's great same-sex love affair as its subject.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Bruno Barreto (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands), Reaching for the Moon is based on the true love story between Bishop (Miranda Otto) and the Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Gloria Pires) that ignited when Bishop traveled to Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s. The film's publicity promises, "Alcoholism, geographical distance and a military coup come between the lovers, but their intimate connection spans decades and forever impacts the life and work of these two extraordinary artists. The attraction of two polar-opposite women has rarely been so volatile and so erotically charged on the big screen." The film was the Audience Award winner at both the Outfest Film Festival in LA and the Frameline Film Festival here in SF. We've seen the trailer, and it looks stylish, sophisticated, and fun – and as a bonus, full of Brazilian modern architecture and design.
Having a ball
More glamour: In Legendary – Inside the House Ballroom Scene (Duke University Press), photographer Gerard H. Gaskin offers an intimate look inside the culture of house balls, underground happenings where gay and transgender men and women compete for prizes in costume, attitude, movement and "realness." Gaskin has insider access to balls in New York City, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington, DC, and his photos are revealing looks at members of legendary houses like the House of Blahnik and the House of Xtravaganza, whether doing their stuff onstage or decompressing with homies backstage.
"The balls are a celebration of black and Latino urban gay life," Gaskin writes in a sort of mission statement in the front of the book. "They were born in Harlem out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves. The participants work to redefine and critique gender and sexual identity through an extravagent fashion masquerade. Women and men become fluid, interchangeable points of departure and reference, disrupting the notion of a fixed and rigid gender and sexual self."
Beyond all the jargon are the photographs themselves, candid and revealing portraits of men and women who have set themselves free. The spirit of these individuals comes through loud and clear, their clothes, their styling and their bearing making them true stars of the ballroom. The book is the winner of the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography.
Music to our ears
Here's the gist of what we listened to by recording artists in last year's releases. This isn't meant to be the "best" of anything, any more than Out There is the "best" of anything. OK, yes we are, but we won't tell you what it is.
Patricia Barber, Smash (Concord) "Scream!/Investment bankers won,/and the money isn't there." – "Scream."
Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 4 & 7, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan (PBP).
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Specter at the Feast (Vagrant) "I need a rival, I need a rival,/I found my soul, let's set it on fire." – "Rival"; "Why won't you lose yourself at all?" – "Lose Yourself."
David Bowie, The Next Day (Columbia) "Had to get the train from Potsdamer Platz./You never knew that,/That I could do that,/Just walking the dead." – "Where Are We Now?"
Chanticleer, Someone New (Chanticleer) "Then gay youth was mine,/Truth was mine,/Joyous, free and flaming life forsooth was mine." – "Yesterdays," music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Otto Harbach.
Dvorak, Cypresses, String Quartet No. 13 in G, Cypress String Quartet (Avie).
Ludovico Einaudi, In a Time Lapse (Ponderosa).
Jack Johnson, From Here to Now to You (Brushfire).
The Knife, Shaking the Habitual (Rabid).
Lady Gaga, Artpop (Streamline) "Goddess of love,/Take me to your planet (to the planet),/Take me to your leader (to the planet)!" – "Venus."
Lovers, A Friend in the World (Badmen).
Mahler, Symphony No. 1, San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra , Donato Cabrera , cond., Live at the Berlin Philharmonie (SFS Media).
Maps, Vicissitude (Mute).
Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (Bad Boy).
The Octopus Project, Fever Forms (Peekaboo).
Sam Phillips, Push Any Button (Littlebox) "This world is so beautiful/for no reason at all,/When life circles around/and you can't see straight." – "Can't See Straight."
Amy Ray, Goodnight Tender (Daemon).
Schubert, Winterreise, Thomas Meglioranza, Reiko Uchida (Meglioranza).
Donna Summer, Love To Love You Donna (Verve).