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The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

May 26, 2012

800. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
Written and directed by Peter Greenaway
1989, UK/France

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren) is the sophisticated wife of Albert (Michael Gambon), a sadistic restaurant-owning gangster. During yet another rowdy evening meal with Albert and his gang, Georgina spots gentle diner Michael (Alan Howard) amongst the usual rabble. Georgina and Michael quickly start a passionate love affair within the restaurant, right under the nose of her violent husband. The affair is kept secret by the sympathetic cook, Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer), who is well aware of the terrible abuse Georgina suffers at the hands of Albert. But how long will it be before Albert finds out about Georgina and her lover?


I was the beau ideal of the morbid young aesthetical,
To doubt my inspiration was regarded as heretical

~ Act II, Patience – Gilbert and Sullivan

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is a conundrum for the brain and a feast for the eyes, although the visuals are not always agreeable. Rotting animal carcasses and appalling human behaviour are blended in with the stunning colours of the costumes and affluent sets. Beauty and ugliness.

The (comparatively) simple storyline of an abused, unhappy wife finding comfort in an affair with an intelligent and loving man is beefed up by many visual and plot-based allegories involving the characters, their surroundings and the zeitgeist of Britain in the late 1980s. When a film is so heavily aesthetic, it is sometimes difficult to look at it objectively without sounding like it has gone straight over your head with an unpleasant whooshing sound. So, as this is a light ‘opinion’ blog, I’m not going to go into those elements. It’s worth a view to form an opinion for yourself but I personally wasn’t interested enough to go beyond the ribbons and bows.

Fascinating fact: The costumes for The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover were designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jim Lawrence permalink
    August 17, 2012 5:44 pm

    But definitely worth watching for Gambon’s fantastically grotesque portrayal of a crude and violent autocrat.

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