The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

⊆ 2/11/2006 12:23:00 PM by HT | ˜ 0 comments »

Murder, betrayal, lust, food, sex... perfection --1989--written and diredcted by Peter Greenway
"This is arresting British writer-director Peter Greenaway's 1989 masterpiece. It takes place almost entirely in an elegant restaurant, with elaborate meals, gorgeous decor, excellent service ... and adultery, murder, and cannibalism. The bored wife of a barbarous crime boss decides to take a gentle bookseller as her lover, and her husband brutally retaliates. But she gets her gruesome revenge on him in the end. Helen Mirren, the thinking man's sex symbol, has never been sexier (the adulterous encounter in the spacious white restroom is incredibly erotic!). Greenaway sets this ghastly tale in sumptuous sets, with a use of color that is to die for -- if you'll pardon the expression. Tim Roth and Ciaran Hinds may be glimpsed among the supporting cast. Definitely sui generis. " --David Loftus ......

Helen Mirren, a British actress of some repute (best known for her portrayal of Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series), has never been sexier than here. Her performance is proof that a female lead doesn't have to be under 40 or classically beautiful to heat up the screen. Mirren's lovemaking scenes with Alan Howard are charged with eroticism, and her final confrontation with Gambon is tense and bitter.
Set design is top notch. Le Hollandais is a surreal place, the kind of fantastic setting that Jeunet and Caro would bring to the screen years later in films like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. This is also a movie of vivid colors: reds for the dining room, pinks for the rest rooms, and greens for the kitchen. The Cook is always visually interesting, even on those rare occasions when other aspects of the production aren't as arresting.
One message that Greenaway clearly conveys is the association between two of life's most obvious sensual pleasures: eating and sex. He litters this picture with the brutal and the grotesque -- including murder, covering someone with excrement, and cannibalism. The Cook is always as visceral as it is visual, with Gambon on hand to provide acid commentary for everything (he never seems to stop talking). Then there's the ending, which contradicts the saying that revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case, it's warm, and very, very appropriate. -- James Berardinelli

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