The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) starring Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Tim Roth, Ciarán Hinds directed by Peter Greenaway Movie Review

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

An Affair You Will Never Forget

English thug Albert Spica (James Gambon) has taken ownership of the once classy Le Hollandais Restaurant, where classical French chef Richard Borst runs the kitchen. But Spica has turned it into his own playground who doesn't care that his obscene and violent behaviour has lead to regular patrons deserting the place. Albert's wife Georgina (Helen Mirren) tired of his obscene behaviour and his constant humiliation of her falls for one of the remaining patrons, book shop owner Michael (Alan Howard) and they embark on an affair often right under Albert's nose. But Albert learns of this betrayal and sets about making Michael and Georgina pay. The question is will Albert's belligerent behaviour come back to bite him in the butt.

Rarely has a movie started and left me with my jaw so firmly dropped that I couldn't stop watching because of what is simply gross excess which makes you redefine your meaning of the words gross and excess. To attempt to explain why I will tell you about the opening scene which sees Albert and his thugs strip a man naked on a car and force him to eat shit, smothering his body in it before Albert unzips his pants to give the poor man something to wash it down with. It is graphic but in such a way that you are left amazed by what you are watching yet without being forced to see it all in explicit detail, well not all the time anyway. The thing is that scene after scene is the same, extreme, gross, violent yet in a way which leaves you amazed, none more so than the sex scenes including one which occurs in the kitchen in the store room.

Alan Howard and Helen Mirren in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

It is not just what happens which shocks you as the setting is just as extreme with sets which make it look like it is a stage opera, in fact one of the characters sings in an operatic way which is startling. Everything about "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" is extreme and it is not in my book the sort of movie that the casual movie fan will be able to stomach. And it is not just the presentation but how the story plays out as well with an ending which is as extreme and unpleasant as everything else.

Plus there is the acting and Michael Gambon is full on as the thuggish and frankly one of the most repulsive men you will ever see as Albert. Meanwhile Helen Mirren is curious as Georgina, slightly sympathetic, but then who wouldn't be next Albert, but very sexy or is that sexual. All of the acting is fascinating which is a good way to describe "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" as a whole.

Now I am sure there are some who could read into the storyline something more, maybe something political but even if you chose not to look deeper than as face value entertainment it is still fascinating and jaw dropping.

What this all boils down to is that "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" is a curious, fascinating and extreme movie which I guarantee will shock you and certainly won't be forgotten easily. The thing is that whilst extreme and unrepentantly gross it works and is entertaining at a simple face value level yet I am sure if you wished you could find plenty of depth and symbolism to it.