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Film: The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover

"Try the cock, Albert. It's a delicacy. And you know where it's been."
Georgina

Squick-laden, Nausea Fuel-laden off-beat 1989 British drama/romance/comedy/arthouse film full of Food Porn, Scenery Porn and gorgeous symbolism, directed by Peter Greenaway and starring Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and Alan Howard in the titular roles.

English mafia don Albert Spica is the owner of the high-class La Hollandais restaurant, of which Richard Borst is the head chef. Georgina is Albert's wife. Every night, Albert flies into rages and forces other patrons out of the restaurant, in addition to subjecting his enemies to sadistic tortures (such as rolling around in dog manure). This is to Georgina's chagrin. Georgina's eye eventually catches Michael, a shy bookshop owner who regularly dines at the restaurant. With the help of the restaurant staff, the two carry out a torrid affair, sneaking off to the kitchen or women's bathroom to have sex whenever they can. Unfortunately, Albert finds out, and goes to Michael's bookshop and interrogates him, force-feeding him pages of his book until he dies. When Georgina finds out, she, and all the other patrons whom Albert has brutalized, take revenge by having Richard cook Michael's body and serve it to Albert, forcing him to eat it at gunpoint before shooting him in the head. Lovely.

Notable for its sets; consisting solely of gray back-alley, green kitchen, red dining room, white women's bathroom and Richard's bookshop, in which the outfits of the characters change color to conform to; and for its X (and later, NC-17) rating in the US. Theories regarding the film's meaning are diverse; but the popular consensus seems to be that it is a metaphor for the oppression of the poor by the rich and by governments; with Richard representing the poor masses and Albert the oppressive upper class. More particularly, it is popularly regarded as criticism of the tax laws of Margaret Thatcher.


This film provides examples of:

  • And Your Little Dog Too: Albert does this a few times. One of the more vile examples is when a business partner has an argument with him and he decides to stab his wife in the face with a fork.
  • Billing Displacement: The Cook is actually a fairly minor character, though he gets mentioned first. The Thief is the villain, and the Wife is the main character. They're mentioned in the order that sounds best as a title. That being said, the Cook is still a fairly important character, since he helps Georgina.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Albert loses everything and the rest of the cast get together to humiliate and kill him. Meanwhile, Michael is dead and at least two of the characters are scarred for life.
  • Break the Cutie: The Tenor Boy mentioned below and Georgina.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Nothing short of the fear of death will stop Georgina and Richard from having sex.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Happens to Michael and the Tenor Boy.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The main colours of the parking lot (blue), the kitchen (green) and the dining room (red).
  • Crapsack World: Albert can publically brutilize people, including his own wife and customers at his restaurant, and there are no police officers to call, apparently. The closest thing to authority we see are health inspectors.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Albert
  • Dead Baby Comedy: It is obviously a dark film but Albert is so deliciously hammy and certain lines, such as the (previous) page quote, are so clever that it can be surprisingly funny at times.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: It doesn't even get that wordy as far as Michael and Georgina are concerned.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:By the end of the film, all of Albert's goons (With the exception of Mitchel, who is equally as bad as Albert) have deserted him, either through being outright terrified of him or by being completely sickened at how sadistic he is. His torture of the Tenor Boy and brutal murder of Michael is the last straw for the very few who stay with him until the end.
  • Explicit Content: The sex scenes had to be trimmed down for the R-rated cut.
  • Fan Disservice: Naked Helen Mirren and Alan Howard, covered in rotting meat.
  • Food Porn: The kitchen staff essentially work within food tableaux. A title card appears for every day of the storyline, each of which is lavishly decorated with food spreads.
  • Force Feeding: Albert's favored method of torture, eventually turned back on him.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: If you just avoided getting killed by Albert, you'd wanna celebrate as well.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: The main characters have a very healthy sex life and are willing to do it anywhere. This is in contrast to the description we're given concerning sex with Albert which is terrifying and sadistic.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Albert.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Albert will be a humanitarian whether he wants to be or not!
  • Instant Seduction: Ooohhhhh yeah.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Averted. The lovers don't seem to mind that at any moment, Albert could waltz in and find them. Even when he does find out and they are forced to flee, they keep it up.
  • Kick the Dog: Albert does this for 2 hours straight. At one point, he runs over a dog with his car.
  • Large Ham: Albert manages to chew quite a lot of scenery along with the rest of that fine cuisine.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Albert ends up eating more than his words.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Georgina explains that she is unable to have children with the possible implication that she wants them.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Happens in the ladies' restroom, a bookstore, an empty lot, and in the middle of the restaurant's kitchen while surrounded by staff.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Mostly Michael.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Georgina, outside of the scene filed under Fan Disservice.
  • Multi-Character Title: Though none by name.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Or in a meat van anyway.
  • Negative Continuity: Greenaway has a tradition of ignoring continuity in his films since he values visuals over details. This is evident in this film where characters completely change wardrobes and hairstyles as they pass from one room to the next in order to match their surroundings (every room in the restaurant is in one color or another). This becomes impressive since one shot involves a oner, following the characters through the entire building and still managing to change their clothes if only for a few seconds. It gives the impression of one take despite obviously being a shot that had to take a day or two at least.
  • Nouveau Riche: Spica is a thug who, now that he's got money, thinks that he's a classy, cultured gentleman. He goes to his high-class restaurant every night and lectures his croneys on cuisine. In reality, he's just a violent oaf.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Albert's views are very... colorful.
  • The Promise: Albert is forced to keep his promise, which involved killing and eating Michael. He did intend for it to be a partial promise, though.
  • Sex Equals Love: Possibly. The lovers don't say much to one another but they do have a lot of sex and love each other quite a bit.
  • Shower Of Love: Doubles as a Shower of Angst.
  • Stocking Filler: Georgina.
  • Your Cheating Heart: But you can't really blame Georgina.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Albert
  • Would Hurt a Child: Albert once again.

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alternative title(s): The Cook The Thief His Wife And Her Lover
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