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

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Satire, Erotic Drama  |   Release Date - Apr 6, 1990 (USA)  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - France, United Kingdom, Netherlands  |   MPAA Rating - NC17
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Review by Tom Wiener

Filmmaker Peter Greenaway's most notorious film in a career marked by audacity, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover includes scenes of intense and shocking brutality and humiliation, fevered sexual encounters, and a final act of forced cannibalism. But what is most striking about the film is its visual style. Shot by the late, legendary Sacha Vierny in glorious widescreen compositions (this is a film that demands to be seen on video in a letterboxed edition), The Cook often unfolds like a medieval tapestry, as Vierny's camera tracks from one room of the restaurant, where most of the story takes place, to another. The characters are more types than flesh-and-blood people, as the title suggests. Michael Gambon gets to have the most fun out of his Thief, bellowing and flailing about. As in many other Greenaway films, the actors serve merely as game pieces to be moved about on a brilliantly designed board, but here, Greenaway offers a more linear story about the ways good people accommodate evil. If nothing else, The Cook is his most accessible film -- albeit for those with strong stomachs.