An Unbelievable Form of Revenge

the cook the thief his wife and her lover

THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER  (1989, UK and France)

While looking for film clips that would help me inspire to write some difficult scenes, I stumbled upon on YouTube this film noir by Peter Greenaway. Rotten Tomatoes said that this is probably Greenaway’s famous film. Also, according the said film review website, the audience were shocked during its screening at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

It is about four characters: Albert Spica (the thief), played by Michael Gambon, Richard Borst (the cook) played by Richard Bohringer; Georgina (the wife) played by Helen Mirren; and Michael (the lover) played by Alan Howard.

Albert Spica is a gang leader who recently bought the French restaurant, Les Hollandais. He frequents the place with his friends and gangsters, beats innocent bystanders, or humiliates people around him (including his wife, Georgina) to his wife’s disgust and embarrassment. Richard Borst, a keen observer, manages the restaurant and calmly watches everything in awe. Michael is a bookish regular customer at Les Hollandais and falls for Georgina. Richard is aware of Michael’s and Georgina’s passionate affair that he even helped them hide from Albert.

The intercutting  and colorful imagery gave meaning and flavor to sex and violence. The haunting music provided the feel of film noir. It shows lots of fog, smoke, grime, and filth literally and figuratively speaking. Some scenes are outrageous, bizarre, gross, and dark. If you are not used to film noir, you may end up shocked or disgusted.

The film shows the irony and paradoxes on the relationship between eating and sex, and between love and death. Political and social innuendos provided another layer making the story thought-provoking. It is beautiful and intelligent that it deserves a second look. Unforgettable performances of Helen Mirren as Georgina and Michael Gambon as Albert Spica.

It was not shown here in the Philippines probably because of its theme, all-out nudity, unbearable tortures, Jacobean revenge against Albert, and the unthinkable ending. Now you know why I prefer foreign films than Hollywood. 🙂

UPDATE: This film is no longer found in YouTube probably due to copyright infringement. I was lucky enough to view it entirely at one time.