Kinky and subtle, Bitter Moon is not your ordinary erotic thriller. It hits hard and makes you think about relationships in your life. Love is a strange thing and when you add sex and time to the mix, things get fucking ethereal. Now, we all know that Roman Polanski is a very controversial director but I’ve been able to separate him from his works. Don’t ask me how or why, it just happened although I loathe people like him. If you want to know more about Roman and his life check out the documentary Wanted and Desired. You should also know that Mimi is actually his wife.
At this moment I have to mention 50 Shades of Gray, a movie with a seemingly similar subject. However, the difference between these two is huge. Shades took the most visually and emotionally impactful concept of breaking free of society’s notions of sex, without further content. It did so to enable its audience to enjoy “engaging” in such a subject without rational thinking, acting only on stimuli.
Bitter Moon would be just too difficult for that target audience. I think they would find it gross and perverse. Mostly because you can see deeper concepts that are driving characters to engage in certain behavior. And this is making them subject to deeper moral examination that’s not going to go well for them. With a runtime of well over two hours, this is a movie that’s going to take up your whole evening. But it’s so fucking worth it.
Fiona and Nigel Dobson are traveling to India in hopes to mend their “routine” marriage. On this trip, they will meet a strange couple that will take them on another kind of journey. Oscar will tell his story to Nigel, the story of sex, passion, perversion, and love that is overwhelming.
The acting is awesome, and Peter Coyote did an amazing job as everyone else. Emmanuelle Seigner later said she regretted doing this movie but I have to admit she was perfect for this role. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t like her too much. Bitter Moon is about overpowering and all-consuming passion and its impact on people and their lives. Furthermore, it examines the modern society that claims to be free of prejudice and hypocrisy. Set in the city of love, Paris it’s also experimenting with dominance and submission.
I should also mention another controversial movie with the same setting, Last Tango in Paris. Released in 1972, this sexually-charged drama still packs quite a punch. Beautifully shot, and with a lot of sex scenes that are not so crude and in your face, Bitter Moon is a definite must-see. The clash between famous British stiffness and the American casual anything-goes vibe, among other contrasts in this movie is something that you can think about after the movie is over and see how it relates to your life.
And although we’re faced yet again with another older man younger woman relationship, it doesn’t feel as dirty as it should be. The question that I keep coming back to is did their relationship change anything? Were they always on the same path and this passionate romance just added a bit of flavor? The fetishization of the sensory and emotional experience is another interesting topic along with very fetishization of the fetishization. In my opinion, all this leads back to that feeling of being alive.
And that feeling leads back to the chemical reactions we’re programmed to have in order to prolong the life of our species. But who knows, maybe I’m wrong. And exactly because of the slower pacing and authentic characters we can think about these things. Finally, I should mention that Bitter Moon is based on the novel Lunes de fiel by the French author Pascal Bruckner. This is why it has that literary structure and excellent storytelling. As I always say, with some movies stars align and they become immortal. Just like this one.
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Pascal Bruckner, Roman Polanski, Gérard Brach
Cast: Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Peter Coyote, Victor Banerjee
Fun Stuff: The cabin on the ship in which Mimi and Oscar stay is DS1, a play on the movie’s theme of Dominance and Submission