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The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

Greenaway's film begins with a man stripped naked, force-fed shit and pissed on, and it ends in cannibalism. Between, there lies a simple tale of adultery, jealousy and revenge. Wealthy London hoodlum Gambon nightly visits the ritzy restaurant he has bought, humiliating his wife (Mirren), chef (Bohringer) and thugs with his nouveau riche vulgarity and threats of violence. Understandably tired of him, his wife embarks on an affair (in the loos, naturally) with another regular customer, the quiet, bookish Howard. It's the details - as in all Greenaway movies, far from incidental - that provide most interest: odd connections made between sex, eating, love and death. Since the characters are here less educated than usual, the witty wordplay of Greenaway's finest work is missing; and though it looks sumptuous enough - with Sacha Vierny's 'Scope camera relishing the reds, golds and greens of the set and Jean-Paul Gaultier's gaudily stylised costumes - shooting in a studio seems to have cramped the director's taste for elegantly surreal symmetries. For a Jacobean-style drama about deadly emotions, the film lacks passion; only in the final half-hour, with Michael Nyman's funereal music supplying a welcome gravity, does it at last exert a stately power.

Release details

Rated: 18
Duration: 124 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Greenaway
Screenwriter: Peter Greenaway
Cast: Richard Bohringer
Michael Gambon
Helen Mirren
Alan Howard
Tim Roth
Ciaran Hinds
Gary Olsen
Ewan Stewart
Roger Ashton Griffiths
Ron Cook
Liz Smith
Ian Dury
Diane Langton
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