The Cook, the Thief, His... View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Peter Greenaway

Produced: 1989

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: 18

Length: 119 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 14 March 2016

Cat No: FHED3468

Languages(s): English
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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Cast: Helen Mirren , Richard Bohringer , Michael Gambon , Tim Roth , Alan Howard , Ciaran Hinds , Ron Cook , Liz Smith , Roger Lloyd-Pack , Gary Olsen , Roger Ashton-Griffiths , Ewan Stewart

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Peter Greenaway directs this culinary tale of passion and revenge. An arrogant gangster (Michael Gambon) invests in a popular French... Read More




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Peter Greenaway directs this culinary tale of passion and revenge. An arrogant gangster (Michael Gambon) invests in a popular French restaurant, which he begins to frequent with his wife (Helen Mirren) and a band of crooks. He delights in humiliating his spouse, and, when she begins an affair with another patron (Alan Howard), the restaurant’s cook (Richard Bohringer) tries to protect them from her husband’s wrath.

Peter Greenaway’s films are not to everyone's taste, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, his biggest commercial success, divided audiences on its release; there were those who loathed the violence, the tawdry view of sex, the swearing and the cruel, vulgar humour, and those who loved the strange, operatic ambiance of the film, the references to Jacobean tragedy, and the stylised intensity of the performances.

Albert, the thief (Michael Gambon), a violent, crude crime boss dines at the restaurant of the cook (Richard Bohringer) with his wife (Helen Mirren). Driven to despair by her husband’s unspeakable behaviour to all those around him, and the sadistic treatment he gives to her, she takes a lover (Alan Howard). When Albert discovers the affair, his actions lead to terrible consequences for everyone, himself included.

Although The Cook, The Thief… contains many signature Greenaway touches, the mood is more sombre than in his earlier work; the gruesome scenes, including the torture of a child, are harrowing, and the beautiful score by Michael Nyman adds a funereal quality to the action. The wit of The Draughtman’s Contract is substituted for the bawdy overkill of Albert’s crude attempts at comedy. Gambon gives a true tour-de-force performance as this monstrous creation, who lurches from pathetic self-pity to psychotic fury without any warning. Mirren is typically strong as the woman trapped in a horrific marriage, who finds comfort in a relationship with a quiet stranger.

In spite of the horror that takes place on-screen, the film looks amazing, with vivid photography highlighting the many shades of red, incredible interiors and striking costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier. These visuals correspond brilliantly to the mood set by the score: melancholy choir music plays in the dystopian kitchen, merry fiddles are heard in the deceptively cheerful dining room, and soft, poignant music serenades the lovers as they b egin their affair in the secrecy of the bathroom.

All these qualities help to contribute to the extreme power of the film’s notorious conclusion. The Cook, The Thief… has one of the most extraordinary endings in recent cinema, and is the perfect finale to an unusual, engrossing film.

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