The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover 1989 ***

Peter Greenaway’s brief flirtation with the mainstream produced his most accessible and shocking film in 1989; although his usual visual tropes are on show, with nudity and fruit forming part of his painterly compositions, The Cook, The Thief is a chilling tale of gangsters and retribution. Michael Gambon is Albert, the crime-boss who uses his ill-gotten gains to live a gluttonous lifestyle, and Helen Mirren is his wife, who finds herself drawn to one of the patrons of the restaurant that Albert frequents. Writer/director Greenaway is a class act, but that doesn’t stop him from exploring the darker side of human nature in this violent, hypnotic film. It may be theatrical in conceit, but it’s a perfect analogy for the excesses of Britain in the late 80’s.


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