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(1992) Nigel Grant) and Fiona (Scott-Thomas) are a strait-laced, happily married young British couple bound for a second honeymoon on an ocean ship bound for Istanbul when their world is turned upside down for good. The instruments of change are a wheelchair-bound American named Oscar (Coyote) and his strange, seductive French wife, Mimi (Seigner). He has a penchant for telling tales; she, a knack for seduction. Together, they have a passion for Nigel and Fiona. Through a series of flashbacks and voice-over narration, Oscar becomes storyteller to Nigel sharing with him all the erotic and often sordid details of his relationship with Mimi. In the end Bitter Moon is a wicked tale of love, sexual obsession, temptation, betrayal and cruelty. It succeeds not only as a tragic comedy but as a psychological study of the darker side of human nature.
 

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Cast

  • Peter Coyote...........................................Oscar
  • Emmanuelle Seigner................................Mimi
  • Hugh Grant..............................................Nigel
  • Kristin Scott-Thomas............................Fiona
  • Victor Bannerjee..............................Mr. Singh

Credits

  • Directed by..........................Roman Polanski

  • Screenplay by................Gerald Brach, John Brownjohn and Roman Polanski based on
    the book  Evil Angels by Pascal Bruckner

  • Cinematography by..........Tonino Delli Colli

  • Music by...........................................Vangelis

  • Running time: 135 minutes

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Reviews:

Miami Herald:
"One of the best things about the movie is that Polanski has provided a tricky plotline that continually unloads surprises on the viewer. 'Everyone has secret nooks and crannies,' Oscar tells Nigel as he begins his long tale, and Bitter Moon takes great pleasure in probing those of its characters. It's an odd little movie, one directed with such a sure hand, you can't help but go along on its bumpy, mesmerizing ride."

Maclean's:
"Coyote, devouring his role with mischievous relish, is superb, especially in his scenes with Grant, who is priceless as the eminently shocking Nigel."

The Bergen Record:
"The show-stealer is Coyote, who has made his name giving great performances in small roles, like the prosecuting attorney in Jagged Edge (1985). Here he's allowed to give vent to his wide range, and it's a dazzling display."

Time Out, London's Weekly Guide:
"Characteristically, Polanski treats this slightly protracted tale of erotic obsession partly as deeply ironic black comedy; much of the sex is played for laughs, while failed-author Oscar's narration is appropriately OTT, prompting a steady on' reaction from Nigel that may mirror our own. But there's also real seriousness in the way the film condenses a whole range of feelings into one crazed, cruel relationship and its effect on another couple, so that it becomes both a grotesque portrait of love's variety (and its aftermath), and a queasy commentary on the perverse pleasures we derive from the suffering of others. Rich and darkly disturbing, then, but wickedly entertaining too."

Magill Movie Guide:
"Peter Coyote is superb as the hard-boiled writer, cynical and sentimental, the very essence of a degenerated Hemingwayque tradition... Bitter Moon is a subtle, disturbing film about how love is lost when it is pursued to the exclusion of everything else... The high quality of the performances, the skill of the direction - especially in the alternation of interior and exterior shots - and the cinematography and makeup combine to make the film a fascinating and upsetting experience."

Newsweek:
"The outrageous, mesmerizing Bitter Moon makes it clear that Polanski has neither mellowed as an artist nor lost his licks. He remains a keen, sly observer of the dangerous games people play to protect their psychic turf... Coyote's broken, bitter Oscar, with his bad teeth and sickly pallor, is a sadistic Scheherazade, perversely compelled to spin out his lurid tale. It's a sly performance and Grant, squirming with rattled propriety, makes a wickedly funny sounding board."

Philadelphia Daily News:
"Bitter Moon is Polanski's deepest, most disturbing film in two decades... Polanski sheds an eerie, lunar light that illuminates places we've forgotten the movies were meant to expose."

Lawrence Russell, Film Court:
"The soundtrack by Vangelis is excellent, is pure onomatopoeia with the ocean, the moon, the bitter spirit that pervades this story of poisoned love. But the film's power comes from its narrator. Peter Coyote moves through his role as if he is no mere fiction but rather an eloquent subject of cinema verite. His resemblance to that well-known poetic undertaker Leonard Cohen (or even Pascal Bruckner, author of the novel) perhaps helps some of us suspend our disbelief... yet the fact remains that Coyote is utterly convincing as Oscar, an American writer as horny as Henry Miller but without the humanism of his famous precursor."

Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide:
Director Roman Polanski paces the film quite well and the cast (particularly Coyote) is wonderful."

The Hartford Courant:
"Throughout Coyote presents Oscar as a spoiled, heartless, increasingly sadistic hedonist who has become a wretched, voyeuristic cynic. Seigner's performance builds into a sensual tour de force, uninhibited, wild, poignant and finally vengeful. Grant blends propriety and lust, Scott-Thomas shifts from prim to sensual and Victor Bannerjee comes and goes as a worldly Indian with a beautiful little girl. Throughout, moodily and sparingly underscored by Vangelis, Polanski's images match his inspired handling of his cast. Through the photography of Tonino Delli Colli, the sea reflects the turbulence of Oscar's confessions, and Paris is seen as alternatively romantic and sordid... Again, Polanski gives us a deliciously bitter, moonstruck tale of love and sex and revenge and blood, and even the possibility of redemption."

Film Comment:
"Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon lives up to its title. It's luminous and implacable, sour and serene. It's glitteringly circular. And at high tide it draws an ocean of seething questions towards the viewer and deposits them at his feet: Will love without bounds always lead to death? Do art and life ever stop leaking into each other? And is this the most stylishly mordant film from its director since Chinatown? Yes, a loud yes, to the last...

Los Angeles Magazine:
"This may be the most powerful film about sensuality and passion since Last Tango in Paris. It achieves this goal without any renowned Method actor and without so much as a teaspoon of butter... Polanski has a great deal to say about the limitations we place upon ourselves sexually - but even more so about the lack of limitations we place on cruelty."

Michael Wilmington:
"Coyote captures Oscar's decay with scary precision... Bitter Moon definitely bears the stamp of the masterly director of Knife in the Water and Chinatown. But there's something far more playful and remote about its style, though the underlying themes are serious: the death of love and the dangers of addiction, sexual and otherwise. It's a comedy that doesn't seem to be a comedy, a tragedy full of straight-faced absurdities and deliberate cliches. And, as much as Knife in the Water or Cul De Sac, it's a tale of sexuality, violence, mind games and madness under a vast cold sky, surrounded by water, where actions are absurd, speech is cryptic and all emotions are primal and dangerous."

Voice:
"As the garrulous and jaded narrator, Coyote gives the best movie performance of his career, a yellow-toothed, avidly babbling cadaver whose self-mocking mock-Scheherazade narrative hilariously transgresses the bounds of polite discourse."

The Knoxville News-Sentinel:
"Polanski has created a mixed bag of an erotic satire. The flashbacks are the best-written and best-acted parts... Seigner, who starred in Polanski's Frantic and now is married to him, is outstanding as the child-turned cynic. Coyote also does exceptional work."

Albany Times Union:
"A high-toned black comedy of sexual manners and mores, it first pays homage to the powerful fascination of passion, then ruthlessly mocks its self-defeating insularity... The film mixes its hot-and-sour flavors so that it's impossible to taste one without sampling the other. This duel-edged approach is woven into the film's storytelling techniques...Bitter Moon is a film of high style. Extraordinarily well-shot and designed, the film features the best performance ever given by Coyote, a cunning portrait of a self-aware self-deceiver."

Duane Byrge from Hollywood Reporter:
"Bitter Moon is a wicked tale of sensuality, perverse humor and emotional abuse, all smeared together in a base element of psychological need... As the wormy, wheelchair-bound writer, Coyote is a terrific, devilish provocateur, while Seigner's erotic performance as his dancer-wife brings to the forefront the desperation of her sexual needs. The mousy, sexually-spent English couple, Grant and Scott-Thomas, are well-cast and reveal their stiff inner mettle. Technical contributions are well-realized, in particular, cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli's shimmeringly sensuous compositions."

Palm Beach Post:
"Coyote's performance is appropriately broad and grandiose. (To appreciate his versatility, see Kika in which he plays, very differently, another distasteful American expatriate writer.)"

Harvey S. Karten of Hollywood Hotline:
"A surprisingly good performance is turned in by Emmanuelle Seigner... Peter Coyote is well cast as the swinging American-turned cripple. While Coyote has been busy with underexposed films like Living a Lie, Blind Judgment and Crooked Hearts, he deserves a wide audience for this riveting tale of sexual corruption."

Neil Martin, Palo Alto:
"An ultimately fascinating movie, in part because of its deft vision, in part because of the strong central performances (Coyote's especially)."

Lobby Cards


Movie Stills


Production Photos

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"Peter was one of the first names we looked at... Eventually it came down to Peter. I'm glad that it did because I can hardly imagine anyone better for this part than him."

"I needed an intellectual, a guy who can think, a polyglot. Peter is all of that and an exceptionally easy actor to work with. Intellect can stand in the way sometimes, but I find the best actors are the intelligent ones."   ...Roman Polanski

 

"Oscar enjoys being offensive. He likes being the passenger from hell on a cruise line."

"We sailed around hunting up bad weather (for the wrap-around exteriors). In the evenings we played blackjack and gambled. It was great fun, like being at camp with the niftiest people in the world."

"If you're going to work with a director of Roman's stature, you can't go into it protecting your image."

"This is not a serious film that's unintentionally funny. Roman treats a weighty and touchy subject with a great deal of humor. He rockets between black humor and pathos. Roman wanted it to be mischievous, wicked and operatic. The joke is that my character is not a great unrecognized expatriate writer. He's living the lifestyle as a cover for personal indulgence."

"The way America deals with something they can't handle is to dismiss it. They'll say it's boring. If they really want to do it in, you'll hear, 'It's not Polanski's best work.'"

"All the film makers will go to see it because it is Polanski's movie, so at least I know the best directors will see it."    ...Peter Coyote

Did you know?

  • The French version of this film is called Lunes de Fiel.

  • It previewed at the Odeon Haymarket theater in London, August 12, 1992 and
    was screened at the 1992 Edinburgh and San Sebastian Film Festivals. The film opened in New York and Los Angeles March 18, 1994.

  • In the New Year's Eve scene, in order to duplicate the rocking motion of the cruise ship, the set was constructed on wooden rollers and on command the set was pushed and pulled where the floor tips and heaves quite realistically.

  • Nino Cerruti supplied some of Coyote's wardrobe for Bitter Moon. (Of interest, Coyote was the exclusive male model for the Italian fashion line Cerruti 1881)

  • Kristin Scott-Thomas was also named "Fiona" in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

  • When the film came to London, Hugh Grant instructed his parents not to see it. He said his parents don't like rude things.

  • Polanski is a personal friend of Vangelis and asked him to write the score to Bitter Moon. None of the music was released on compilations or soundtrack albums. There are, however, covered versions of the closing titles available on various soundtrack samplers but they do not succeed in closely resembling the original.

  • David Elliott, movie critic for the San Diego Union Tribune, wanted to nominate Coyote for best actor in Bitter Moon.

  • The woman playing bridge in the movie opposite Grant and Scott-Thomas is the Princess of Liechtenstein. The guy upchucking into his party hat is a world-famous epidemiologist.

 

[ The Official Peter Coyote Web Site ]