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The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover

Studio:Peter Greenaway
Director:Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard, Tim Roth
Release Date:1989
Genre:Comedy, Drama

At Johns Hopkins University's Shriver Hall Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 11/1/2006

Hypermeticulous rococo bricoleur Peter Greenaway's 1989 Jacobean revenge story/dark comedy isn't his most lavish, preposterous, visually ambitious, or even cinematically cohesive movie, but The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is the one where all his obsessions conspire to yield a misanthropic metaphor for Western civilization in bizarrely intoxicating sights and sounds. The chilly sensuality comes courtesy Last Year at Marienbad and Belle de Jour cinematographer Sacha Vierny, the self-consciously gorgeous baroque musical flourishes from Michael Nyman, the costume's straitjacket sophistication from Jean-Paul Gaultier, but selling Greenaway's heady, satiric dialogue in this bluntly schematic plot is a formidable cast nailing every understated jibe and overwritten ribaldry. At a tony French restaurant run by unflappable gastronome Richard (Richard Bohringer), local crime lord Albert Spica (Michael Gambon at the top of his considerable game) maligns other diners and pronunciations of the menu's fare while his wife, Georgina (Helen Mirren, fearless as ever), begins a clandestine affair with the bookish Michael (Alan Howard). And given how this deadpan decadence begins--in scatological debasement--Cook ventures exactly where you suspect, and does so in ravishing tracking shots, surreally realized sets, and quiet moments of pure ridiculousness. And it remains one the 1980s' high-water marks for nauseating beauty.

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