movie film review | chris tookey

Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover

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  Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover Review
Tookey's Rating
4 /10
Average Rating
7.00 /10
Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren
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Directed by: Peter Greenaway
Written by: Peter Greenaway

Released: 1989
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: GB/France
Colour: C
Length: 120

In a restaurant which looks like Hell, a thief (Michael Gambon) forces dog excrement down someone's throat. One of the thief's gang vomits mussels at the dinner table. A boy is forced to eat his own navel. A woman has a fork stuck through her cheek. The thief's wife (Helen Mirren) exhibits a taste for inter-course intercourse, is beaten up and talks of suffering sado-masochistic indignities. Her Lover (Alan Howard) proves, by coupling vigorously in a game cupboard, that he is game for anything. As a reward, he is choked to death on his own books, roasted and eaten.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Peter Greenaway’s pretentious, dehumanised and disgusting film is obviously an allegory about something or other (capitalism? Thatcher’s Britain? dodgy restaurants?). It tricked some critics into eulogies because it looks like a great film. The director's use of colour, attention to visual detail, and mastery of camera movement suggest an artist at the peak of his powers - but with nothing whatever to say.

Greenaway is often called "cerebral", and he is certainly bleak and unemotional; but there's nothing brainy about the pseudo-poetic flights of fancy in this film. "Eating black food is like consuming death", says the Thief. To which the only possible reply is "No, it's not." There is also much half-baked nonsense - spoken, equally improbably, by the thief - about the affinity between the excretory and sexual orifices. Greenaway's stupid script is almost saved by the performances. Helen Mirren copes wonderfully with some truly laughable lines. I shall long treasure the moment when she pleads with the cook to do her lover one last favour: "This was his favourite restaurant. It's also mine. Cook Michael for me!"

The movie is also enlivened by Michael Gambon's energetic if one-dimensional performance as the Thief. It is a measure of Greenaway's failure, however, that he takes such delight in his anti-hero's monstrosity and shows so little sympathy for the other characters (This auteur's attitude towards the wife, in particular, is one of the most disgustingly sadistic prurience) that one may come away worrying not so much about capitalism, as about Mr Greenaway.

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