Entertainment » Movies

Bitter Moon

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 21, 2019
Bitter Moon

Director/writer Roman Polanski, love him or hate him, is one of the very few filmmakers that takes a specific kind of care in portraying human nature as a condition that's replete with faults. "Bitter Moon" is considered by some as one of his minor films. On the contrary, it deserves more recognition. Released in 1994, a time in which thrillers like "Basic Instinct" and "Body of Evidence" applied camp to sadistic sexual relationships, the Peter Coyote and Emmanuelle Seigner-starring drama was derided by some for taking such a remarkably clear-eyed look at the things we'd do for love.

Mild-mannered couple Nigel (Hugh Grant) and Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) are taking their honeymoon on a cruise ship when they meet an eccentric quadriplegic named Oscar (Peter Coyote) and his beautiful wife Mimi (Seigner). After sharing a couple of conversations, Oscar invites Nigel to his room and regales him with the story of his and Mimi's relationship - a love that's much different than the way it initially was. After all, Oscar wasn't always paralyzed from the waist down.

Oscar is a middling author who moved to France to find the inspiration for his grand opus, which never comes to fruition. He becomes entranced by waitress Mimi and courts her very soon after initially catching a view of her. What he doesn't know is that Mimi has an obsessive personality, and when she has her heart set on something she will go to great lengths to make sure that thing becomes a reality.

I mentioned "Basic Instinct" and "Body of Evidence" earlier because they can provide you with a bit of context as to what kind of S&M is depicted in "Bitter Moon." Oscar, a man who isn't really happy about living life confined to a wheelchair, is at his most excited when he tells Nigel about the time that Mimi peed on him during a heightened sexual encounter. The act of the golden shower, as it's called by people interested in such things, brought him the kind of sexual bliss he felt slowly disappearing from his and Mimi's relationship. Most of the story is told through flashbacks to Oscar and Mimi falling in and out of love, trying absolutely anything to keep the fire alive. And when Oscar finally tires of keeping their relationship alive, he devolves into a bitter adulterer that only ruins Mimi physically and emotionally.

The aforementioned instance of a golden shower is only one of many instances in which the lovelorn couple tried kinkier things as a form of rekindling. Most of these acts are played boldfaced, with Polanski taking deep care into showing how the idea of love can be degraded by those using such activities as sexual ultimatums. Love is a thing that can take a person and reduce them to, well, a whimpering simp who wears a pig mask and crawls on all fours in an act of domination by his or her lover. And while the narrative doesn't really do well by those who use S&M in ways that are productive to their respective relationships, it's very tuned in to how less-experienced folk will do such things because the thought of losing love is far more painful than anything they'd want to experience.

There's a great interview with star Peter Coyote on this new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber that demands your attention. For those curious about Polanski's motivations behind this project, Coyote's insights will do more than satisfy your quest for knowledge. The bit where he talks about pulling from his own emotional PTSD for some of the more dramatic sequences in the film is a great little look into his own process. Plus, the audio and video transfers are terrific. Polanski and cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli (who also shot "Once Upon a Time in America") showcase many of the sultrier sequences in darkness and the new HD transfer makes those blacks look incredibly rich.

Other special features include:
•Audio Commentary by Film Historian Troy Howarth
•Theatrical Trailer

"Bitter Moon"


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook