Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover


The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Grotesque, UK/ France/ The Netherlands, 1989; D: Peter Greenaway, S: Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Richard Bohringer, Tim Roth, Liz Smith

Rich gangster Albert is a disgusting slob who causes chaos and destruction every time he dines at one high-class restaurant, but is tolerated because of the sheer fact that he is financing the extravagant food experiments by cook Richard. Albert's wife Georgina hates him and thus starts a secret affair with bookshop owner Michael. When Albert discovers that, he starts such a sudden campaign that Georgina and Michael have to escape from the restaurant naked and hide. Still, the gangsters find Michael and kill him. Georgina, angry and disillusioned, orders Richard to cook Michael's body. In front of the restaurant staff, she takes a gun and orders Albert to eat Michael's cooked flesh. Then she shoots him.

Peter Greenaway is a peculiar and unique artistic soul, an artist who decided that he will be better remembered with time if he stands out from the usual art by crafting bizarreness, twisted touch, surreal imagery and - in this case - even bare shock value. For all of it's hyped and controversial reputation, cult grotesque drama "The Cook" isn't that disgusting or unbearable as some claim it is, but actually follows a fine line that connects all the events into one big picture, though it's definitely not suited for the gentle audience, if alone for such scenes where the disgusting gangster Albert kills Michael by force-feeding him pages of his favorite book or the gruesome cannibal finale with Michael's cooked, naked body. In such grotesque and expressionistic movies, the basic must is that they should engage and dazzle the viewers with brilliant style, yet here it's hard to shake off the impression that some moments aren't that impressive as they were suppose to be, since the story does seem rather repetitive, stiff and without a point. Some ideas seem of a rather questionable value, which is why some viewers will probably completely dismiss it as junk while others will go through it like a ship through a storm and actually enjoy the ride. 'Bon Appetit' is definitely a term that won't be used here. At it's chore, it's just a standard revenge story done in an nonstandard way, yet some of Albert's silly antics, with which he insults some of the guests in the restaurant, are hilarious, and Helen Mirren is great as his annoyed wife Georgina.

Grade:++

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