“When you’re in love, catshit tastes like chocolate” is but one explanation offered for the continuation of the ancient tradition of polygamy among about ten percent of marriages among Balinese. For the starkly candid, tear-streaked “Bitter Honey,” anthropologist and director Robert Lemelson spent seven years observing the lives of three polygamous families in Bali. Interviews with the families’ “co-wives” both fascinate and appall; oppression, economic exploitation and violence are presented as commonplace. (The men believe they grow stronger with each wife.) There’s not as much narrative or character evolution that one might expect from the extended time frame of Lemelson’s observation, but even the intimate snapshot offered is an eye-opener. Bali’s no paradise for these Balinese. 81m. (Ray Pride)
“Bitter Honey” opens Friday, October 31 at River East.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.