Thursday, 15 December 2016

Review: ''The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover'' by Peter Greenaway

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is a film made in 1989 by Peter Greenaway. The films title is a complete description of the characters within the film, as it follows a truly awful man called Albert (Michael Gambon) and his wife Georgia (Helen Mirren), eating at the 'La Hollandaise' restaurant every night. We watch Albert do some outrageously awful things to not only his wife Georgia, but also the restaurant staff, his friends, and other people eating within the restaurant. We watch Georgia initiate an affair with a man also eating at the restaurant, later finding out his name is Michael, and we watch the horrific consequences of this affair, as Albert finds out. At times the film can be quite difficult to watch, but the film has a great aesthetic drawing you to not look away. With the costumes being designed by Jean Paul Gautier, the dress code feels very extravagant and provocative. 

The film has a strong use of colour throughout, it is very theatrical in nature. The colours are extremely vibrant and strong, and each room has a different colour, 'The white bathroom, the red dining room, the green kitchen and the blue outside. As Georgia enters each of these coloured rooms, her dresses change colour, blending into the colours of the room. ''Greenaway gives a nightmare tinge to these scenes by using a different color scheme for every locale -- red for the dining room, white for the toilets -- and having the color of the character's costumes change as they walk from one another.'' (Ebert, 1999). The coloured lighting is also used to convey Albert's anger throughout the film. In the red dining room. Albert's face gets lit a little more red than before as he starts to get angry and shout.

This change of costume colour throughout could have a deeper meaning for Helen Mirren's character Georgia. It could connote that she is not yet her own woman, constantly searching to blend in, standing back, she is trying to find her identity in the world. Therefore, in the scenes in which she is with Michael, tucked away in inappropriate and uncomfortable places, stripped of her costume, she no longer blends in. If anything she is in contrast with the colour of the room, in turn connoting that with Michael she has found herself, she knows what kind of woman she is, and is free. 

The way in which Michael Gambon's character Albert is portrayed throughout the film is truly horrific. The way in which he treats his wife gets worse and worse throughout the film, starting at sexual harassment to beating his wife, leaving her bruised the next day. His character almost makes you question whether he had childhood issues, as he constantly says ''you're going to have a very sore bottom'' and ''you have been very naughty''. It's almost childlike in manner, pushing the audience to believe he may have not been raised in a very homely environment. He is the embodiment of anger, greed, abuse and ''vulgarity and bad taste of the nouveau riche, Spica is both parody and cliche. His is the 'grotesque body' surrounded by sumptuous banquet imagery; an enormous mouth and alimentary canal  that seeks to master the world by consumption'' (Sinnerbrink, 2015). 

The film tackles many different controversial topics throughout, such as abuse, rape, murder and cheating. The film makes the audience question what civilised behaviour is within the film, ''Mr. Greenaway has said that ''The Cook'' was inspired by Jacobean revenge tragedies, but its themes and broad strokes suggest it is also indebted to allegories and morality plays. The wife takes a vengeful turn at the end that tosses the film's questions about civilised behaviour back at the audience. It is possible to love or hate ''The Cook,'' but it is not possible to duck when such serious and important subjects come flying off the screen.'' (James, 1990). 


1. Ebert, R. (2016). The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover Movie Review (1999) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].
2. James, C. (2016). Movie Review - - Review/Film;Peter Greenaway's Elegant and Brutal 'Cook' - [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].
3. Sinnerbrink, R. (2016). Continuum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].


4. Goldsmith, L. (2016). | The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].
5. Hanke, K. (2016). The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. [online] Mountain Xpress. Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].
6. Mobarak, J. (2016). REVIEW: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover [1989] | [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Dec. 2016].

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