Uptight, unhappy British couple Nigel and Fiona (Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas) are on a cruise to India. After helping a young woman named Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner) during a bit of seasickness, they meet her invalid husband Oscar (Peter Coyote).
Nigel sees Mimi later and finds that, when not covered in sick, she’s rather fetching. Oscar gets to know Nigel, mostly by regaling him with stories about the increasing depravity between himself and the lovely Mimi. She’s the one who put him in his wheelchair, you see.
As Oscar tells the tale of their beautiful love we see it in flashback. Short version: They met and became obsessed and got dirty with it.
Each night, Nigel returns to the cabin he shares with his wife and shares the stories he hears and they’re both oh-so-Britishly appalled. (Though, fair dues, some of what they do would give most vanillas pause.)
It would seem that Oscar is giving Nigel this information as a way of warning him off, but the motivation is a different one. And the end was definitely unexpected.
I saw this many years ago when I was in love with Kristen Scott Thomas and all I remembered of it was the milk drinking scene and the very end. Which is incredible because quite a few very memorable things that don’t happen in film happened in this one.
That doesn’t automatically make it a must-see, however. For one, I’m ambivalent about Roman Polanski films. Let’s just say that the way I watched this one did not benefit him financially. But how you feel about that is up to you and I’m not basing my rating on that. What I am basing it on is how long and, somehow, boring it felt. For something with such a variety of kink—both Mimi and Oscar were switches—I found myself looking forward to getting on to other things.
And it wasn’t because I had seen it before, because I kept thinking, ‘I don’t remember any of this.’
Mostly I didn’t care about either of the characters. I have no problem hating characters—some of my favourite characters in fiction are loathsome. These I just didn’t care about. Except for Oscar’s awful narration. I just wanted him to shut up.
Bitter Moon is one of those films that I could see could be a ‘classic’ kinky film in that if you’re kinky you should see it because there’s a fair amount of kinky and explicit sex. The power dynamic between Oscar and Mimi is twisted and well, dynamic—changing throughout their time together. But it’s a long film—two hours and nineteen minutes. And it feels like two hours and nineteen minutes. Much of the story is told by Oscar to Nigel and it’s easy to see why he’s not a published writer, as his prose is dreadful. (He describes her pussy as a ‘baby’s mouth’ at one point. Saying once it was aroused it would suck on his finger. Fuck’s sake, man. Vomit.)
I give this one 3/5. It’s painfully long and rather dull and the Oscar’s narration made me want to shoot him.