BITTER MOON — CLASSIC FILM PICK
A be-all-and-end-all example of erotic drama, Roman Polanski’s co-written adaptation of Pascal Bruckner’s novel is fraught with romantic and sexual tension. The picture bristles with a sensuously dark humor steeped in experience.
Situated on an ocean cruise liner en route to India via Istanbul, the binary storyline connects two married couples in an extended game of seduction whose rules and goals are movable. Uptight Brit Nigel (Hugh Grant) and his deceptively suggestible wife Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) are at an impasse in their marriage of nine years when they meet Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner) and her wheelchair-bound husband Oscar (Peter Coyote). Polanski’s impeccable casting choices create a boundless sense of dramatic energy that alternately simmers and boils.
Oscar, a failed author, invites Nigel back to his private room (Mimi has her own room) for daily talks to divulge his long and troubled relationship with the exotic Mimi, to whom Nigel is obviously attracted. Oscar holds nothing back. His graphic description of his many and varied sexual encounters with Mimi make Nigel visibly uncomfortable, but excite his carnal desires for Oscar’s mysterious wife.
Polanski’s beautifully composed flashback sequences of Oscar’s and Mimi’s relationship illuminate Nigel’s remembrances about how meeting Mimi on a bus in Paris led to his obsessively attempting to find her. Dreams fulfilled can turn into nightmares.
What begins as an ideal romantic relationship for Oscar and Mimi, filled with unbridled sexual exploration including BDSM, descends into abuse and dysfunction when Oscar begins to hold Mimi in unfounded contempt. Oscar’s unfathomable cruelty will earn him a cold dish of revenge served up on a daily basis.
Psychological and physical twists culminate in an unpredictable display of misplaced passion that makes good on a story about confused people acting on primal impulses. “Bitter Moon” is a suspenseful adult movie about the discrepancies between love and lust, and between loyalty and communication.
Rated R. 139 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)