Thursday, 5 May 2016

I've Just Seen: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

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

Director: Peter Greenaway

It is hard to know what to say about Greenaway's film. There is certainly no denying his sense of style. The camera sweeps through the sets of the kitchen and the restaurant, moving with an ease that tests the supposed barriers between these two classes of people. The widescreen wide shots allow us to take in this whole world. Greenaway and his production designer, along with Gaultier's costumes, look amazing, with the murky green of the kitchen contrasting nicely with the plush red of the restaurant, and the white of the bathroom. The music adds to this world, pointing to its Baroquian excess.

The performances are also very good, with Michael Gambon's Albert a standout. His is an utterly awful character, and in anyone else's hands could have descended completely into grotesque caricature. While he is still grotesque, Gambon is also mesmerising in his horribleness, and feels uncomfortably real; I can imagine their are people like Albert in the world. His comeuppence in the end is appropriate to his character - I can't imagine anything else getting to him.

This is definitely a film to admire, but not one I necessarily enjoyed, or am likely to watch again. Not only does all the scatology, nudity, violence and cannibalism make this an unforgettable film, it also makes it hard to like. Others have mentioned that this is Pasolini-lite, which makes me nervous about Salo. Don't watch while eating food.


  1. I found this such a difficult movie to judge. It's definitely stylish, even beautiful, but so incredibly repellent that I'm not sure I want to praise it.

    You should be nervous about Salo. I won't scare you, but I won't pretend it's not an ordeal.

    1. Even reading about Salo fills me with dread. The only positive things I have read about it are similar to this film: that the cinematography is beautiful, though the subject is not.

      Yes, this is a hard film to judge. Even the beauty of the imagery works to alienate you, adding an artifical quality. Though this is good thing; keeps us at some distance from the horrors unfolding.