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Bitter Moon

Bitter Moon (1992)

tomatometer

40

Average Rating: 4.9/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 6

No consensus yet.

audience

82

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 8,944

My Rating

Movie Info

A perverse, dark-humored comedy drama, Bitter Moon crosses the line into intentional camp more often than not in its tale of a kinky cripple Oscar (Peter Coyote) and his beautiful wife Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner). Oscar ensnares a proper British man, Nigel (Hugh Grant) on an ocean-liner and makes him listen to the twisted tale of his relationship with Mimi (related in lengthy flashbacks) and how erotic obsession turned to homicidal hatred. Nigel is married to Fiona (Kristin Scott-Thomas), but is

R,

Drama, Comedy

Gérard Brach, John Brownjohn

Jun 3, 2003

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All Critics (30) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (11) | DVD (9)

It's a matter of some dispute whether Roman Polanski's letter to the darker side of the romantic impulse, but there's little question that this is his most emotionally complex movie.

February 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Strong playing by topliner Peter Coyote can't compensate for a script that's all over the map and a tone that veers from outre comedy to erotic game-playing.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rich and darkly disturbing, it's also wickedly entertaining.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This material obviously appeals to his sense of mischief, which remains alive and well.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

By turns funny, brilliant, shocking and downright terrible, this choppy, two-hour-plus voyage is for Polanski aficionados who don't mind watching their favorite, aging enfant terrible going gleefully under.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Well, of course Bitter Moon is wretched excess. But Polanski directs it without compromise or apology.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bitter Moon is entertaining, but in the manner of ghastly car crashes and legendary theatrical disasters; you can't take your eyes off it, but you often want to.

February 19, 2010 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Deliberately provocative, infuriatingly melodramatic, this is a film that begs not to be taken seriously, and requires a ready suspension of moral discernment for maximum enjoyment.

February 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Polanski's study of a marriage based on obsession, lust and cruelty was panned by critics as tasteless pornography, but there's a rich fascination in the film's openly voyeuristic, lurid extremes.

February 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Tediously kinky, but the kinky is at least funny if not entirely sincere.

January 9, 2009
ColeSmithey.com

A fascinatingly ugly study of a relationship gone sour.

April 9, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

Polanski tempers his tale by filtering it through Grant, who receives it with a combination of disgust and fascination.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

A Freudian psychiatrist will have a field day analyzing Roman Polanski's perversely erotic tale, in which his real-life wife Emmanuelle Seigner is subjected to all kinds of physical and sexual abuses.

December 21, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Devilishly entertaining.

December 2, 2003 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

One of Polanski's most celebrated directorial motifs, the decimation of human bodies as a reflection of their withering spirits, is brutally forthright in Bitter Moon.

June 11, 2003 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

By turns moving and creepy -- and very sexual -- it's one of Polanski's darkest and deepest works, yet strangely one of his least celebrated.

August 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Unfortunately, Polanski is not in complete control of the tone of the movie.

January 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Movieline
Movieline

You laugh, but you watch, and sometimes you watch without laughing at all. It's a cruise on the wild side with no Dramamine required.

November 12, 2001 Full Review Source: Movieline
Movieline

Look beyond the titillation. In the end, this is a story about the boundaries of love and how easy we can flip between the two emotions.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

A disturbing, spare story and a return to Polanski's earlier thematic ground.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Some movies are feel good movies. This one is a big black hole of depressing images.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Internet Reviews
Internet Reviews

Excessive at worst and depraved at best.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for Bitter Moon

Surely we've all heard of real life stories floating about of a man completely bowled over by a woman with her bewitching looks, beauty to die for....yet asking her out turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life!

In "Bitter Moon", Roman Polanski's overlooked 1992 drama, Peter Coyote's character Oscar narrates his sordid experience of a similar kind to a reluctant listener, Nigel (Hugh Grant) aboard a cruise ship sailing to Istanbul.

Oscar, a small-time writer on a wheel-chair observes that Nigel who is travelling with his wife Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas) seems to have been struck by the thunderbolt that is Oscar's comely wife Mimi (Emanuelle Seigner). Oscar urges Nigel to "beware".."She is a walking man-trap", he tells him!! Nigel, clearly taken aback, of course, denies being attracted to her.

Oscar almost forces Nigel to listen to his bizarre tale to Nigel, who although initially reluctant, seems to be experience some sort of guilty pleasure in hearing Oscar out.

In a series of flashbacks, Oscar narrates the lurid true story involving him and Mimi...a tale which begins as an innocent romance and turns into what Nigel, at one point, describes as a "perverse sex life" as he almost throws up when Oscar covers some of the most sickening details..


Why does Oscar decide to tell his story in such vivid detail to a complete stranger? Why does Nigel, who clearly thinks Oscar is a sick man for making his wife the subject of an erotic tale, keep coming back to him for more? Does he harbour the hidden desire to have Mimi..in spite of his wife being around?


All throughout the first half of the film, Polanski plants these questions in the viewer's mind, which are soon answered as the story unfolds at its own pace yet never lets up. It is almost shocking, the way Polanski reveals the true personalities of some of his characters, as they initially seem to carry a very different persona about them.

At one point, the victim and the victimizer almost switch places in a very dramatic fashion and you are left in limbo as to who to root for! Of course, that is one of the strongest points of the film...it is very interesting the way these characters have been written. These are probably some of the grayest characters you may have come across in any form of fiction.

Roman Polanski directs like the pro that he is and that is not unexpected of him. The screenplay takes its time to unfold as some of Oscar and Mimi's sexual encounters are depicted in considerable detail. Some may find it rather odd that Polanski casts his own wife, Emanuelle Seigner, in the central role of the seductress and makes her enact all kinds of scenes that one normally wouldn't want to watch his wife doing with other men!

One of the film's most winning aspects is the performances, with Peter Coyote delivering a rock-solid performance of an aspiring writer reduced to a helpless cripple who can't seem to escape the situation he is in.

Emanuelle Seigner's transformation from a sweet girl on the bus with a child-like innocence to the temptress who could have any man she wants, to the 'victim' who actually seems to experience true love is breathtaking! I guess Polanski couldn't have asked for a better actress to fill Mimi's shoes.

Hugh Grant, the typically English dude, isn't very different from what we've seen of him in countless other films.

Kristin Scott Thomas doesn't get to do much and it's a pity.

Victor Banerjee appears for a short while to play a character probably written to depict the "sanity" or "normalcy" in this whole alarming state of affairs with the four central characters.

"Bitter Moon" is an intense drama bordering on erotica that may not be everyone's cup of tea, but is still a highly interesting work of cinema by one of the most prolific and revered film-makers of our time. Do not miss!
May 30, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

Normally I love Polanski's work, but I didn't know what to think of this movie. First of all it's really long, and there's a lot of talking. There are a lot of erotic scenes, and most of them are good. I didn't know weather I liked it or not, but overall it's an okay thriller/drama.
May 6, 2011
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

There are some people who would have you believe that Polanski made little of worth between "Chinatown" in 1974 and his critical comeback "The Pianist" in 2002. I may be biased but I can find something great in just about everything he shoots and I would rate this as one of his best movies. It's a dark and disturbing but blackly comic tale of an obsessive and destructive relationship. Polanski often struggles to bring a film in under two hours, and he doesn't do so here, but it's compulsive viewing from start to finish. Peter Coyote is magnificent and Hugh Grant's stammering upper-class-twit act has never been used to better effect. On the downside, Vangelis' soundtrack is very dreary.
November 1, 2007
harrycaul

Super Reviewer

Polanski accomplishes another quest for love in the depths of hell. an outstanding and upsetting erotic drama. Peter Coyote completely steals the movie.
July 29, 2007
pier007

Super Reviewer

    1. Oscar: We were just too greedy, baby...
    – Submitted by Alfred B (15 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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