A film to be savoured, directed by a man who trained as a painter at the Walthamstow College of Art in East London. A film that’s visibly influenced by fine art. A film that underlines anger and disgust. Peter Greenaway devised The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover (1989) as an opulent and decadent riposte to Margaret Thatcher’s England and its upper classes. Roger Ebert described it on release as “a meditation on modern times in general. It is about the greed of an entrepreneurial class that takes over perfectly efficient companies and steals their assets, that marches roughshod over timid laws in pursuit of its own enhancement, that rapes the environment, that enforces its tyranny on the timid majority which distracts itself with romance and escapism to avoid facing up to the bully-boys”
The narrative of this erotic mix of sex and food and violence evolves around the four people described in the title. The Cook is Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer) the owner and head chef of the grand high class London restaurant Le Hollandaise and who resents Albert Spica taking control of his beloved business. Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) is The Thief an obnoxious gangster who thinks he’s a gourmet, holding court every night in the restaurant while consuming vast quantities of food, but with his uncouth, coarse and violent behavior wreaks destruction on everyone around him. The Wife of the title is the sophisticated and battered wife of Albert Spica; Georgina (Helen Mirren) who has tried unsuccessfully to escape from his cruel clutches, a passionate affair develops with a fellow diner on a table opposite. Michael (Alan Howard) is The Lover an intellectual bookshop owner who dines at Le Hollandaise every night while reading his book until that is his eyes meets with Georgina’s and with the help of the restaurant staff manages to make love to her under Albert’s very nose.
|Albert and his wife discuss the menu.|
If you have never seen this Anglo French co production do every thing in your power to put that right, you will never see a more interesting film, at times evoking a sense of fantasy with its strong and vivid colour’s which change depending on what part of the restaurant the characters are in: red for the grand dining area, white for the lavish toilets and green for the extensive kitchen, these colour changes include Jean Paul Gaultier lavish costumes. The acting is beyond reproach, Gambon’s manic performance gives a new meaning to hyper activity, where as Helen Mirren has never been more sensual. All topped off with an exquisite Michael Nyman soundtrack. What more can a connoisseur of fine movie’s require?