21 March 2005 | The_Void
Polanski doing what he does best
Bitter Moon once again sees the master of the macabre, Roman Polanski, doing what he does best. With echoes of his earlier film 'Knife in the Water', Bitter Moon is a story of lust, revenge, betrayal, dependency and most of all; love, wrapped tightly around a coil of taboos and sexual perversions. While not as good as some of Polanski's other works, Bitter Moon still stands out as a highlight of his filmography and is certainly a lot better than many people have reputed it to be. The film follows two very different couples on a cruise ship; An English couple, Nigel and Fiona and an American cripple, Oscar, who is married to the French seductress Mimi. After meeting Mimi in the ship's bar, Nigel becomes entranced by her and later meets her husband and proceeds to learn his and wife's story...and it's not exactly pretty. With this movie, Polanski has obliterated the barriers of decency, and sometimes even makes you, the viewer, uncomfortable due to the goings on. And that's the mark of someone that knows how to handle his audience!
The acting in the movie really is first rate and there isn't a weak link there, especially not within the four leads. I'm no fan of Hugh Grant, in fact I hate the man, but he's exactly the right casting choice for this movie and it's almost a shame that he went on to make lots of rubbish movies after it. The two women, played by Kristin Scott Thomas and Emmanuelle Seigner are well done in terms of the characters and the acting, but it is Peter Coyote who steals the show as the abominable Oscar. His character in this film is the sort that actors can really get their teeth into, and Coyote bites down hard in this movie. Polanski's direction is excellent as usual and the gritty style mixed with the great director's edgy camera-work help to create a claustrophobic environment that allows Polanski to perfectly portray his characters' mindset. The themes on display are impressive, and in spite of the fact that it oversteps the mark on several occasions, Polanski's film always feels real and the lesson in the love that the film teaches is duly noted. Bitter Moon is a film that will get under your skin and stay there and not only that but there's enough happening to ensure that this is always a fun watch. Recommended viewing.