DIRECTOR: ROMAN POLANSKI
COUNTRY: FRANCE/ENGLAND 1994
CINEMATOGRAPHY: TONINO DELLI COLI
CAST: Peter Coyote (Oscar), Emmanuelle Seigner (Mimi), Hugh Grant (Nigel), Kristin Scott Thomas (Fiona), Luca Vellani, Boris Bergman, Victor Banerge (Singh)
SUPER FEATURES: Actually not too bad of a film.
I seem to carry a love/hate relationship with Roman Polanski. Just about every time I promise not to see one of his films again, another
one comes up which gets one's curiosity flared up. And eventually one falls for it, and goes to see it. The question is, if this one is going to be as bad as the previous one. Not bad in the sense that the film is bad, but distasteful as Roman tends to be, despite his obviously superb film, and story telling techniques.
BITTER MOON, is the story, well, let's see.... could be about a couple whose fires have gone out a long time ago, and are always on the look out for a new experience... or the story of another couple on a holiday trying to figure out if their marriage is worth while saving.
One couple is a no win situation. Oscar and Mimi have been lovers for a long time, but since Oscar has been in a wheel chair, his ability to enjoy sex has turned into a voyeuristic event, watching his wife try to enjoy herself. And while she is attractive, and a very good tease, it still bores Oscar to death. And he tells his story in flashbacks. Nigel and Fiona have been married for a while but their ways have gotten boring, and not quite as exciting as either would like. She is looking for the word exciting, and he is looking for whatever it might be that he refuses to grow into. Maybe his reluctance is a bit of the stand offish way that his class brings him up into in his native country. Pleasures are meant to be kept buried and not discussed type of thing.
And Oscar and Mimi play on this weakness to the hilt. It is never quite clear if Mimi and Nigel do get mixed together and do anything, but in a wild night of drinking and fun, Fiona and Mimi do have some fun. While it opens up some horizons for Fiona, it now leaves her and her husband together to find out what they really want from each other, and how to enjoy it.
Roman Polanski is a master of film angles and the visual style that teases us to no end. Mimi gets to strut everything she's got, and makes us want her as much as Nigel. And Oscar is never oblivious to that look, or comment. The question, then, is how is all this going to come to a halt, or end. And to me, this is where Roman Polanski usually tends to fail as a story teller. He's very good at it all, except the endings, which do not all have to be that tragic, or despondent. Although, in this case, Nigel and Fiona do get a chance to start over. But sadly, the
two that helped them resolve their differences will not. Their style is, either, dead, or on the way out.
But, I wonder if much of this is really a reflection of a lifestyle that borders on the hypocritical, and boring. The people involved, are on a cruise of well to do peoples whose best times tend to be how much sexual fun and partying they can get, if not a business deal here and there. And Roman allows us to see this elitist group to destroy itself, and almost take an innocent couple with them. It doesn't happen, as the foundation of the couple is better than what the decadent side might have to offer.
The film has incidental music by Vangelis, badly used by the way (why doesn't HE make a film?), but as usual the cinematography is what makes this film so attractive. It is beautifully designed and thought out. Few directors will ever look at things in a style so well defined as Roman Polanski does instinctively.
BITTER MOON is not a great film, but the performances of Peter Coyote and Emmanuelle Seigner are excellent. Both Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas come off a bit foppish but nevertheless they are good. The ending almost appears as a soap opera.
Nice film. Technically excellent.
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