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 lengthy tracking shot from the restaurant to the toilet is supposed to be symbolic of food passing through the intestinal tract. See more »
When Albert (Michael Gambon) goes into the ladies' toilet and starts throwing women out of the cubicles, the second one has, as you would expect, her underwear around her knees. But her skirt rides right up, revealing that she is still wearing her underwear, and that the ones below are a prop. 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 »
Writer/Director Peter Greenaway teams up again with cinematographer Sacha Vierny and composer Michael Nyman, delivering a banquet of sound and colour, light and dark. And dark and dark. A simple if disturbing morality tale sits atop a canvas of grotesque characters, carefully-composed frames and revolting details. The restaurant setting forces analogues with a meal, and it's easy to oblige - a rather formal affair, bordering on pretentious, with its influences conspicuous - sumptuous, exotic, intoxicating, memorable, if perhaps too rich and over-long, and it plays havoc with the digestion.
As acquired a taste as any of Greenaway's work, and by no means an unqualified triumph. This film does not deliver on all its promises. But at least they were big promises. Try a piece - if you don't like it, you can always go back to your burgers and fries.
Nine out of ten.
1. Michael Gambon's "Albert Spica" (the Thief of the title) surely ranks as one of cinema's all-time nastiest villains. Sorry Darth - no cigar.
2. The title of this film has become a template for headlines in British newspapers, e.g. "The A, the B, his C and her D". Don't ask me why.
3. "Cook/Thief" is one of four similar and inter-related films that Greenaway made during the 1980s, the others being "The Belly of an Architect", "A Zed and Two Noughts" and "Drowning by Numbers". While "Cook/Thief" stole all the headlines with its snazzy visuals and outrageous grotesquery - not to mention various collisions with the censors - For me, "Drowning" is the best of the bunch. And somewhat easier on the eye (and stomach).
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