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Film / Bitter Moon

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A 1992 psychological thriller directed by Roman Polański, starring Hugh Grant, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Peter Coyote. The script is inspired by a French novel of the same name. Vangelis composed the soundtrack.

The film begins with British couple Fiona and Nigel Dobson (Thomas and Grant) encountering a mysterious French woman named Mimi (Seigner) and her crippled American husband Oscar (Coyote), who tells him their story of meeting, falling madly in love then destroying each others lives. The entire film takes place aboard a holiday cruise ship sailing to Istanbul.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Nice Girl: Unlike her book counterpart, who reveled in being put on a pedestal, Mimi is in love with Oscar to the point of enduring extreme abuse from him.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Oscar is very perverted. Nigel is shocked that anyone would be telling such a story to a complete stranger. He's equally shocked that he keeps listening.
  • Asshole Victim: Sure, Oscar tormented Mimi, humiliated her, beat her once... but he hardly deserves getting crippled for life by her in revenge, right? She reveals that the abortionist he took her to gave her an infection, she almost died and now cannot have children.
  • Ate His Gun: Oscar shoots Mimi and then turns the pistol against himself and shoots his brains out. There is a huge hole in his head. Utterly horrified Fiona and Nigel witness it, but are unable to stop him.
  • Becoming the Mask: Oscar starts humiliating Mimi to drive her away, but halfway through it also starts to get a kick out of it when it awakens his sadistic nature.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Mimi and Fiona have one on the dance floor during a seductive dance together.
  • Bilingual Bonus: There is a lot of untranslated French in the movie.
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: Between Nigel, Mimi and Fiona. And Oscar, Fiona and Mimi.
  • Blatant Lies: Oscar when he finally dumps Mimi by leaving her on a plane to Martinique.
    Oscar: (checks the almost empty overhead compartment) Shit, no room.
  • Bondage Is Bad: Mimi and Oscar are into kinky sex with lots of humiliating positions. It starts as safe, sane and consensual, but they get deeper and deeper and eventually their relationship is anything but safe or sane.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Mimi does an impression of Beverly (Oscar's editor)'s bored "Paris is out" whenever she talks about her. It's to express her resentment that Oscar doesn't love her anymore.
  • Broken Bird: Mimi might have recovered physically from all the abuse and returned to being a knockout, but she's dead inside. Everything she does is to torture Oscar or play games with other men.
  • Break the Cutie: Oscar intentionally breaks Mimi who was a pretty and nice enough girl who wants to be a dancer.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Oscar and Mimi are too twisted and too codependent. When they realize that, they get married.
  • Catharsis Factor: In-Universe, Oscar lampshades that this is how his story should feel to Nigel after Mimi found him and made him his slave to get back at him.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Mimi when Oscar wants to break things up with her. She begs him to take her back and makes a scene. He does take her back, but makes her life awful.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Mimi starts overdoing makeup when she gets depressed. Oscar and his current companions taunt her until she looks like, in his words, she's dressed for Halloween.
  • Dead Sparks: Oscar gets a case of this, causing him to start resenting Mimi for it. At the time, she is still in love with him and becomes an Extreme Doormat.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mimi. After being shown to be capable to be very sexually depraved to get back at Oscar for his mistreatment of her, she demonstrates that she can do the same to another woman when she seduces a wholesome woman, Fiona.
  • Destructive Romance: Mimi and Oscar's love was insanely hot and amazing at the start, but it destroyed their lives.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mimi, and Fiona.
  • Domestic Abuse: Oscar is guilty of emotional abuse and in one instance domestic violence. Mimi pays him back by causing him to become paralyzed, isolating him from anyone else, and making him into a cuckold.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Nigel downs a bottle of alcohol after his wife was seduced by Mimi and the two were seen going to "get a room"...
  • English Rose: Fiona is described as a delicate beauty by Oscar. He says she has elusive, subtle kind of beauty and British charm. He also makes a point of comparing her to provocatively seductive Mimi. Fiona indeed is a pale-skinned woman and is shown to be very nice; for instance she helps messed-up Mimi or she befriends a little Indian girl.
  • Erotic Eating: Involving milk.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: The original novel is French and so are all of its characters, but in the film, Mimi is the sole French character among the main cast and the epitome of that trope.
  • Extreme Doormat: Mimi when she tries to keep Oscar. She begs him to keep her with him, even if he sleeps with other women, becomes a housewife, cooks him a Thanksgiving dinner and even has an abortion the minute he tells her to.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Mimi is a French girl and she's into kinky sex. She's a dominatrix, bounds Oscar, they visit a sex shop and so on. Oscar (who is American) is bewitched with her beauty and oozing sexuality. Oscar and Mimi are also put in contrast with Brits Fiona and Nigel who appeared very prim and proper.
  • Evil Cripple: Oscar is a jerk and horrible, despicable person on a wheelchair.
  • Femme Fatale: Mimi, especially as the story progresses. She's a gorgeous but dangerous woman. Her sexuality and attachment to Oscar causes their fall.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Mimi starts out a rather sweet girl (if one who discovers she has a bit of a sadist side). Once Oscar breaks his leg, she becomes a rather terrifying Femme Fatale who permanently paralyzes Oscar, cuts him off from all other contact, and has sex with one person in the room while he remains in the other.
  • Gay Paree: Oscar is drawn to Paris because of that and this is how he sees the city when he falls in love with Mimi. Later, he can't enjoy it because his boredom from their failing relationship gets in the way, and an editor reminds him of how cliché this is. Mimi rubs that in his face later.
  • Genre Deconstruction: A depressed middle-aged man and a young girl who has yet to explore her sexuality falls in love and have a very turbulent affair based entirely on sex. Of course it will fall apart once sex gets boring.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: When Fiona goes dancing, Mimi instantly joins her and they start flirting with each other. They eventually kiss and go down on each other, and the whole bar cheers them on. Oscar doesn't mind though but Nigel is less than pleased. Even less so when he finds them in bed.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery:
    • Bad: Oscar cheats on Mimi with a prostitute when she bores him, while Mimi has sex with a friend while Oscar is in the other room, to torment him.
    • Fiona cheating on Nigel is portrayed as justified as he was shown to be more than willing to cheat on Fiona with Mimi if he had the chance.
  • Good News, Bad News: After Oscar is out of surgery, Mimi approaches him with Type II of this trope. He's been paralyzed from the waist down. That's the good news. The bad news is that she's moving in with him.
  • Henpecked Husband: Nigel is lacking any emotional intelligence in his stale marriage with Fiona and she berates him for it.
  • High-Class Gloves: Fiona wears a classy black-white gown with long gloves for the New Year's Eve party. She's a bit overdressed as others wear costumes and or casual outfits, but some are dressed as formally as Fiona.
  • Hope Spot: After an initial falling out, Oscar takes Mimi to a romantic date. She gets really overjoyed about it, but he cuts her off, citing her very existence as the reason their happiness won't last.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Emanuelle Seigner is undoubtedly a striking looking woman but the way the other characters describe her you'd think she was Helen of Troy.
  • Instant Seduction:
    • Mimi manages to seduce whomever when she wants. Oscar, Basil, Nigel, Fiona.
    • Oscar effortlessly picks up numerous women right from the street after he dumps Mimi.
  • Intended Audience Reaction: The scene where Mimi and Oscar play a sex game involving him pretending to be a pig while animal farm noises play was cited as Fan Disservice and Narm by many reviewers, including Roger Ebert. This was the exact purpose of it, to show how absurd their sex life has become.
  • Ironic Echo: Every moment in some of the first two stages of Oscar and Mimi's relationship (the happy one and Oscar's abuse) has a reflection somewhere in the latter two (Oscar's abuse and Mimi's revenge):
    • Mimi drinking milk from the bottle and pouring it onto herself for Erotic Eating: she is seen drinking from the bottle and eating messily when depressed, then throwing the bottle at Oscar and getting beaten up.
    • Mimi dancing with Basil to make Oscar jealous because she thought he was flirting with his roommate: She later dances with him and seduces him in front of Oscar to emasculate him. This also echoes her first erotic dance, which was her getting Ready for Lovemaking.
    • Her tying him up to a chair and kicking him as a dominatrix: She later kicks him in his wheelchair while she's on her way for a night out, wearing dominatrix garb.
    • The erotic awakening Oscar had when Mimi urinated on the TV: She goes out for the night and leaves him to wet himself.
    • She brings him flowers when he's in hospital and unceremoniously lays them on top of him, like he did with her when she had an abortion.
    • Mimi using a contaminated (by sticking it into the floor) syringe needle on Oscar is revealed to be this. The abortion he made her have gave her an infection which almost caused her death.
      Mimi: Remember the carousel?
    • After Oscar meets an editress who's disdainful of Paris, Mimi repeatedly rubs this into his face. She uses that to make him feel how isolated she's making him, going out of her way to tell the editress he's unavailable when she calls.
  • Kavorka Man: Oscar, although you only have his word that he had sex with as many women as he says he did.
  • Lady in Red: Mimi was first seen in a red polka-dot dress and Oscar calls her "a sorceress in white sneakers". Later, she often wears other red dresses that are very tight. It marks her as a Femme Fatale.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Oscar intentionally humiliates Mimi by calling her other women's names in bed and later is forced to watch while she has sex with another man.
    • Nigel plans to cheat on his wife with Mimi but in the end it's his wife who cheats on him... with Mimi.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Lipstick bisexuals in this case, with Mimi and Fiona.
  • Love at First Sight: Oscar for Mimi. He first sees her on a tram and falls for her on the spot. He looks for her all over the city. It's revealed that Mimi liked him as well because she saved the tram ticket that Oscar had given her.
  • Love Hurts
  • Love Makes You Crazy
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Or at least a doormat in Mimi's case for staying with Oscar despite his abuse. Note that Oscar was by this point trying to drive Mimi away by being as awful as possible, but it had the opposite effect.
  • Love Makes You Evil:
    • Oscar's excuse for his behavior.
    • Apparently Oscar's terrible treatment of her and her own former love for him transformed Mimi into a sadist.
  • Mad Love
  • Masochism Tango
  • Mating Dance: Attempted by Nigel, which he bungles miserably. Fiona is a lot more successful.
  • Mess of Woe: When Mimi gets depressed about Oscar not loving her anymore, she gains weight, doesn't care about applying makeup properly and becomes a messy eater, not bothering to use a plate or drink milk from a cup. Oscar takes pleasure in degrading her for it.
  • Murder-Suicide: Oscar shoots Mimi and then turns the gun against himself.
  • New Year Has Come: The film graduates with a New Year's Eve party and the morning after.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Mimi dancing with another man to make Oscar jealous and revive their relationship. It fails and instead of Oscar getting turned on, as he expected to, it makes him resent her.
  • Quit Your Whining: An unsympathetic example. After Mimi cripples and tortures Oscar in revenge, he starts talking about how he hates himself for all he did to her. She shuts him up, saying that only she has the right to hate him and no one could hate him as much as she does.
  • Romanticized Abuse: Oscar's treatment of Mimi is psychological torture, but she still sees him as her soul mate who means well.
  • Pair the Suitors: Nigel really wasn't expecting his wife Fiona to cheat on him with Mimi, the woman flirting with him all night.
  • Playing with Syringes: The first torture Mimi employs on a paralyzed Oscar, poking a needle randomly in his leg several times, including after it gets contaminated.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Mimi at one part of the movie when they were broken up, though some might argue her actions are justified.
  • Sex Signals Death: After Mimi and Fiona are found sleeping together, Oscar shoots Mimi dead, then turns the gun on himself.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Oscar as he's being carried to the operating room when Mimi paralyzes him.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Oscar suspects he has done this to Mimi but eventually she does it to him.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Mimi cuts off her hair and bleaches it.
  • Urine Trouble: Mimi goes out and leaves a paralyzed Oscar in his wheelchair all night. This is what she comes back to, just like she planned. He gets Driven to Suicide by this, but can't pull the trigger.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Fiona is sea-sick and has her head in the toilet at one point.
    • Subverted with one older gentleman is seen vomiting into a party hat when the ship shakes.
  • You're Insane!/You Monster!: Nigel calls Oscar out at one point.