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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

NC-17  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  6 April 1990 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 25,369 users  
Reviews: 173 user | 68 critic

The wife of an oafish restaurant owner becomes bored with her husband and considers an affair with a regular patron.



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The wife of a barbaric crime boss engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband's restaurant. Food, colour coding, sex, murder, torture and cannibalism are the exotic fare in this beautifully filmed but brutally uncompromising modern fable which has been interpreted as an allegory for Thatcherism. Written by Keith Loh <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Lust...Murder...Dessert. Bon Appetit!


Crime | Drama | Romance


NC-17 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

6 April 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Spica  »

Box Office


$7,724,701 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated)

Sound Mix:

(as Dolby Stereo in selected theatres)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The dog excrement was actually chocolate mousse. See more »


[speaking of Albert, the thief]
Michael: Where is he now?
Georgina: He's eating avocado vinaigrette and prawns... with his fingers.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing credits epilogue: "And a special thanks to those very many people who patiently & repeatedly performed as patients & nurses in the hospital ward, and as diners in the Hollandais Restaurant." See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Cannibal Ferox (2012) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

An unforgettable piece of total cinema
7 November 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

First of all, I have to say that this film is one of my personal favorites, and that it is one of those things one must see during his or her lifetime.

Truthfully, however, I first got into this film after hearing clips of the soundtrack on the Japanese version of Iron Chef, during a time before it was acquired by the Food Network. This film score, composed by the great post-minimalist Michael Nyman, is still one of the most haunting and soul-stirring scores in my opinion, if not the one of the most impressionable bodies of musical work ever. I still listen to the album on a weekly basis - it gets under your skin that way.

The film itself is a piece of total art, as others have said. The sets are saturated with their singular color schemes (blue for the restaurant's exterior, green for the kitchen, white for the restrooms, and red for the main dining hall) , and people who have any sort of artistic training have valued and will continue to value this film as a character study of color. In this present age where most films present their interpretations of visual thrill through costly CG and SFX technologies, this film is a testament to how color can be a driving influence behind effective set design and cinematography.

The principal actors, including the always amazing Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon, are first rate. Helen Mirren's Georgina is a truly heart-wrenching character, especially in the face of Gambon's portrayal of Albert Spica, a poor excuse for a human being and one of cinema's cruelest villains. The cook and lover are merely catalysts, serving to instigate the final act that is the undoing of Albert's overreaching tyranny.

I suppose the anti-Thatcher sentiment is highly applicable to this film, but since I am not a British citizen, I feel that I cannot comment on this. However, I think the film's allegory can also be applied to other scenarios where a brutish figure uses violence and exploitation as a way to control others whose primary fault is only residing in the same physical/social/legal domain as the brute.

In short, a masterpiece.

25 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Albert Spica, the most odious film character ever. leucrottabob
More artistic movies like this? panospcm
Out of print? joenonneman
Why this movie isn't on the top 250 is beyond me... bplex
Great Fan, but having a big frustration... What about you? paulpenet
Ludicrous theory (to be taken with a grain of salt) AudemarsPiguet

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