WELCOME TO THIS HOUSE, A FILM ABOUT ELIZABETH BISHOP
DIRECTOR : Barbara Hammer
Poet Elizabeth Bishop has gained notoriety as much for her tempestuous romance with Lota de Macedo Soares as for her poetry. While that affair inspired a book and a movie (Reaching for the Moon, Frameline37), this new documentary broadens the focus and puts the Lota affair in context. Frameline24 Award recipient Barbara Hammer (whose previous films at Frameline are too numerous to list!) creates a layered portrait of the person behind the poet, from her childhood in Nova Scotia to her death in 1979.
Bishop described herself as “timorously kicking around the coastlines of the world,” and the film is loosely organized around her stays in Nova Scotia, Key West, Brazil, and Cambridge—the homes she made for herself and the lovers she took. Never “out” as a lesbian—the concept would have been foreign to the writer who graduated from Vassar in the thirties—Bishop nonetheless actively pursued women, from her first summer-camp crush to the May-December romance that was her last affair.
Hammer examines Bishop from all angles, interviewing everyone from literary luminaries like Marie-Claire Blais and Edmund White to Lota’s aged former maid. Hammer pulls the viewer into Bishop’s world, blending present day footage of each location with archival photos, and recreating moments in the writer’s life. Throughout the film we hear Bishop’s own words, read by Kathleen Chalfant, revealing yet another facet of a complicated and passionate woman.