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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 <email@example.com>
The four title characters are named for the actors writer-director Peter Greenaway originally wanted to play them. Richard (The Cook) is for Richard Bohringer, the only one of Greenaway's original choices retained in the final film. Albert (The Thief) is named after Albert Finney, while Georgina (His Wife) is for Georgina Hale. Michael (The Lover) is named, interestingly enough, for Michael Gambon, whom Greenaway eventually re-cast as Albert. See more »
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 »
Imagine the universe as a restaurant. The parking lot is the world. The kitchen is purgatory. The ladies's room is heaven. The dining room is hell. Hell is ruled over by Albert Spica, (Satan) excellently played by Michael Gobon. Dante is Michael (Alan Howard) a cataloger of French books. Beatrice, Dante's perfect woman, Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren) who is married to the devil.
In the beginning, the cook (God) in the real world is seen kicked and smeared and fed dog feces by Gabon. He is humiliated and in tears, but He endures and eventually helps to further the love between Howard and MIrren. Sex, in its pure form, is looked at as something sacred. Gabon lords over everyone in his realm with a tyrant's fist, caring nothing about anyone or anything. He wants two three things out of lifesuperiority to all other being, food and sex, while Mirren, as a reluctant Persephone, sneaks off to be with Howard. A couple of times Gabon even finds his way into the sanctity of heaven, but this is only short-lived.
The mood of the film is dark-black, heralded by brilliant reds or greens, and the tenor of an angelic child throughout. Every image is like a painting. Emotions creep in from all directions.
This is a film that would never, no matter what year it was produced, have won an Academy Award. It is too refined, to subtle, too sensual, too intelligent.
Watch it, rent it, buy it. It must be seen.
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