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The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
★★★★☆
First run Seenmorethanonce Theater cinema Tv laptop
Sensualist British director, screenwriter, artist, and provocateur Peter Greenaway became a minor institution in the 1980s with his absurdly colorful, lavish, disturbing, and uniquely formalistic art films The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), A Zed & Two Noughts (1985), The Belly of an Architect (1987), and Drowning by Numbers (1988). This run culminated in 1989 with his most internationally successful, acclaimed, and infamous picture, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

The film, which introduced Greenaway to most of us on this side of the Atlantic, stars Helen Mirren as Georgina, the wife of sadistic gangster Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) who has taken over a high-class restaurant where he and his goons (including a young Tim Roth) dine every evening. Disgusted by her husband's boorish behavior at these dinners, Georgina seeks out a lover in the form of an erudite bookstore owner (Alan Howard) who always dines alone while reading a book. Each night the wife sneaks away from the thief to rendezvous with her lover in various spaces in the restaurant with the silent permission of the cook. 

A Jacobean revenge tragedy with a modern sensibility, The Cook, The Thief is far less pretentious and cerebral than Greenaway's earlier work, but still revels in all the director’s favorite fixations—the parallels between love and death, the relationship between eating and sex, extreme violence, flagrant nudity, graphic scatology, and some of the least subtle cinematography and art direction of the entire decade. Sacha Vierny's photography works brilliantly in conjunction with Ben van Os and Jan Roelfs’ cavernous production design and Jean-Paul Gaultier's garish costumes. Michael Nyman's hypnotically pulsating score ties it all together. This is not a movie for everyone, and indeed it was rejected by many critics, but it was a huge hit at Cannes and did amazingly well in US arthouses, even though its American distributor Mirimax made the potentially costly choice of releasing the film unrated, rather than submitting to MPAA cuts or the dreaded X-rating. 

The Cook, the Thief is a dark, but at times very funny, morality play about Western society's insatiable appetite for cruelty and power. Greenaway intended it in part as a commentary on the Thatcher years. It has become even more universally relevant now. 

Twitter Capsule:
Greenaway's most acclaimed, infamous, and best picture, about the decadent and insatiable appetite for cruelty and power, is a Jacobean revenge tragedy set in an upscale British restaurant. Wonderfully playful, poignant and comic, but not for the faint of stomach.
Directed by Peter Greenaway
Produced by Kees Kasander

Written by Peter Greenaway

With: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Tim Roth, Ciarán Hinds, Roger Ashton Griffiths, and Alex Kingston

Cinematography: Sacha Vierny
Editing: John Wilson
Music: Michael Nyman

Runtime: 98 min
Release Date: 13 October 1989
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color