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The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

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Movie Info & Cast

Synopsis

This is probably Peter Greenaway's most famous (or infamous) film, which first shocked audiences at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and then on both sides of the Atlantic. A gang leader (Michael Gambon), accompanied by his wife (Helen Mirren) and his associates, entertains himself every night in a fancy French restaurant that he has recently bought. Having tired of her sadistic, boorish husband, the wife finds herself a lover (Alan Howard) and makes love to him in the restaurant's coziest places with the silent permission of the cook (Richard Bohringer). Though less cerebral than Greenaway's other films, featuring deadly passions reminiscent of Jacobean revenge tragedies of the early 17th century, the picture still offers the director's usual ironic and paradoxical comments on the relations between eating and sex, love and death. The film is at once funny and horrific, and those who are not used to Greenaway's peculiar style might be even disgusted or shocked; however, one might mention Sacha Vierny's brilliant camerawork, Jean-Paul Gaultier's gaudily stylized costumes, and Michael Nyman's somber, pulsating music, which will haunt the viewer long after the film's end.~ Yuri German, All Movie Guide

Cast

  • Richard Bohringer
  • Michael Gambon
  • Helen Mirren
  • Alan Howard
  • Tim Roth
  • Ciarán Hinds
  • Gary Olsen
  • Ewan Stewart
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths
  • Ron Cook

Did You Know?

Trivia

  • The mural on the back wall of the dining room is "The Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Militia of Haarlem" (1616) by Frans Hals. It became the basis for Peter Greenaway's set decoration & costuming in the dining area.
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Goofs

  • When Albert (Michael Gambon) goes into the ladies' toilet and starts throwing women out of the cubicles, the second one has, as you would expect, her underwear around her knees. But her skirt rides right up, revealing that she is still wearing her underwear, and that the ones below are a prop.

Quotes

    • [In a book depository]
    • Georgina: Are we safe here?
    • Michael: Does Albert read?
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Atom User Reviews

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Metacritic

100

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is not an easy film to sit through. It doesn't simply make a show of being uncompromising -- it is uncompromised in every single shot from beginning to end. Why is it so extreme? Because it is a film made in rage, and rage cannot be modulated.

Metacritic review by Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
88

If there's anything disgusting or grotesque that The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover doesn't dabble in, I'm at a loss to figure out what it is. This film, a wildly exuberant, bitingly satirical examination of excess, bad taste, and great acting, is the kind of over-the-top experience that will have timid movie-goers running (not just walking) for the exits. Taboos? If director Peter Greenaway has any, you can't tell by this film.

Metacritic review by James Berardinelli
James Berardinelli
ReelViews