Thursday, 26 March 2015

Bitter Experiences... in Polanski's Bitter Moon

It's been a few weeks that I've been meaning to write this but somehow I never had the time to write down a long enough entry to fully exhaust my thoughts about the film. Today I finally intend on giving a short review of director Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon (1992).

This is one of those films that I researched before deciding to buy the DVD and I must say most reviews didn't do it justice. In fact, rather than the reviews, most of which were intent on presenting it as a soft-porn film rather than a tragic story, it was a woman on Twitter who'd seen it already that ultimately made me curious enough to buy the film. I must say I am quite happy I did. Contrary to my expectations from what I'd read, the story flowed easily and invitingly even as scenes moved flittingly from character to character, one romantic relationship to another, and between past and present.

I wondered often since getting to know about the film's existence as to the reason for the title. Then one day even before I'd seen it but after having been through its synopsis, it dawned on me that it was, for lack of a better opposite, meant to signify just how wrongly and tragically one of the couples' second HONEYmoon turned out to be. The story, in fact, deals in the present with the English couple Nigel (Hugh Grant) and his wife Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), who take a cruise to India in the hope of rekindling their very austere love life. On board the ship they meet French woman Mimi (played by Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner) and American husband Oscar (Peter Coyote), who have a fascinating story to tell. As Nigel is drawn into their web of S&M tales as well as the tragedy that is their love story, he can't help falling in love with Mimi, who teases and taunts him at will. His wife, understandably pissed off at the situation, warns him that whatever he does, she can do better and very right she is in this prediction. The already bitter and sad story that has the viewer in a trance wanting to know more, eventually shows just how she intends to get back at Nigel in a turn of events that leaves the couple united in that very ironic situation of having looked death in the face together.

This is the first of Polanski's films that I have seen. Unfortunately it does seem that he has a taste for that which is not only vulgar but also most of the time makes one squirm, from what I've gathered through reading synopsis of others of his films. He is apparently most known for The Pianist and Chinatown and whilst I cannot compare for not having yet seen these two titles, I have to say I was so greatly impressed by Bitter Moon that if those two are his masterpieces, then they are well worth a view.

Getting back to the themes explored in this non-commercial production (based on a book first published in French and called 'Lune de fiel' meaning 'bile moon' and which rhymes with 'Lune de miel' which means 'honeymoon'), it is true that there is much that is shocking and erotic, but I would never class this as porn as some reviews have said. Rather, the sexual exploration, if it could so be called, is a very intricate part of the plot here and necessary in portraying the relationship that is Oscar's and Mimi's and which, I suspect, is also that facet that helps confuse the viewer so that up to the end, you can still give your own interpretation as to who's fault really it was that the relationship between them so utterly and miserably failed. Oscar presents Mimi as the heartless seductress and yet his own version of the story (in long flashbacks) clearly outlines also his sudden change of heart and resulting loathing of the girl he had so pursued.

This is one of those films not clearly explained in writing. It is a viewing that will keep you at the edge of your seat as you are tossed back and forth through present and past in an interpretation of love in all its fifty shades (or more than)... Only from what I gather, this is one much more inventive in its use for sadism and masochism as more than just a way of getting people to watch it.

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