6 April 2016

THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.


THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER. (1989) DIRECTED BY PETER GREENAWAY. SCORE BY MICHAEL NYMAN. STARRING HELEN MIRREN, MICHAEL GAMBON, TIM ROTH, CIARAN HINDS, GARY OLSEN, ALAN HOWARD, ALEX KINGSTON, LIZ SMITH AND RICHARD BOHRINGER. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an utterly fabulous film. It's a freakin' cultural masterpiece. I have a bit of a history with it, to tell you the truth. I saw it for the first time ever back in the 'Nineties. It was on television, probably on Channel 4. They did all the naughty films back then (they were famous for it), and believe me, this is a naughty film.

My viewing companion was my then boyfriend, who's long since become an ex. We had a few drinks- well, quite a few, to be honest- and, as it was so late at night, the film took on a surreal quality for me that only served to heighten its sheer brilliance.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, well, he hated it. He jokingly referred to it in subsequent conversations as 'the worst film he'd ever seen in his life.' My theory on this is that he was- probably still is- a cultural ignoramus.

He only ever liked James Bond films or other movies where blokes got to ride fast cars and loose women, haha. I, on the other hand, can recognise a work of art when I see it. THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER is a work of art. Fact. Let us further explore its intricacies...

The Cook is Richard Boarst, who serves up the most artistic-looking food you've ever seen in a fancy restaurant (Le Hollandais) owned by The Thief, Albert Spica. Albert, superbly played by Michael Gambon (who would later go on to portray Albus Dumbledore in the HARRY POTTER films), is a complete and utter shit, if you'll excuse my French.

You could write a whole book about Albert's repugnant personality. He's one of the most unpleasant characters I've ever encountered in a film. Even Hitler was mild-mannered occasionally, when he wasn't on a podium ranting and raving and waving his arms about like a lunatic, and from what I've seen of the way he's portrayed in the movie DOWNFALL, he had a reasonably good grasp of basic table manners. Obsessed with all things coarse, vulgar and scatological, Albert Spica, on the other hand, is a boor and a swine. Old-fashioned words for a nasty, psychopathic man...

He's super-rich, see? He throws his money about and buys people with it and he thinks that his money entitles him to behave however he wants. He's rude and abusive to Richard, his Cook and business partner, and to the other diners in his restaurant, where he dines nightly with his wife and his coterie of hangers-on.

He calls his hangers-on his 'associates,' and he treats 'em like dirt. They put up with him out of fear and because he picks up the tab. A greasy Tim Roth does a good job as his Cockney sidekick and Ciaran Hinds as another underling (a pimp, of all things!) actually has long hair in it, the only time I've ever seen him look like that. I could swear that a young Ray Winstone is among the hangers-on too, though he's not credited, maybe because he doesn't have a speaking role.

The person Albert treats the worst of all, however, is his long-suffering wife Georgina. He abuses her in every way a man can abuse a woman and she just puts up with it. Helen Mirren does a superb job of looking dead inside as he mauls and insults her every night at the restaurant in front of his cohorts. It's clear that she's been ill-used and emotionally scarred by Albert for many a long year...

Then one night, Georgina catches the eye of a fellow diner, a man who's as different from the repulsive Albert as chalk is from cheese. He's not young and handsome or anything, but he's cultured and educated and civil and he even reads books, something Albert wouldn't (or couldn't) do in a fit.

Georgina and the Book Man embark on an extremely risky and dangerous affair, right under Albert's nose. The consequences of discovery don't bear thinking about but they just can't resist each other. Their sex behind the scenes at the restaurant is of necessity fast, but it's hot 'n' horny and explicit, which is why the film has an unambiguous 18s certificate. The shapely, full-breasted Helen Mirren is in the nip for half the film. Happy days...!

The restaurant is lavishly and luxuriously decorated in red. I believe sumptuous is the word I'm looking for. Georgina's gorgeous bondage-style dresses, which were designed by fashion royalty Jean Paul Gaultier, change colour chameleon-like whenever she moves from the dining-room to the restroom to the kitchen.

The costumes in the film are out of this world generally. Check out a young sexy Alex Kingston (ER, MOLL FLANDERS, CHASING SHADOWS) playing a waitress. In a tight red dress and little black hooker boots walking around the restaurant serving food, she's a sight for sore eyes.

The prop food, by the way, was created by a real-life Michelin-starred chef, Giorgio Locatelli, and it looks fantabulous! When I watched the film recently, I was glad I'd eaten dinner earlier that night, otherwise I'd have been salivating at the sight of it. 

There's a terrific musical score and some live music too in the form of the blonde-haired little dishwasher, Pup, who warbles angelically while he scrubs the dirty dishes. The climax of the film is a real heartstopper and is basically unforgettable. I've personally never forgotten it, anyway. Not since that fateful first-ever viewing...!

As an added bonus, actress Liz Smith, who played the wonderfully dotty old dear Nanna Royle in hilarious British sitcom THE ROYLE FAMILY, is present here as Albert's old mum. She's common-as-muck just like her son, but that doesn't stop her from enjoying all the trappings of her odious son's no doubt ill-gotten wealth and success.

The film is out on DVD this March (2016) from FABULOUS FILMS LTD./FREMANTLE MEDIA ENTERPRISES and it's well worth the price of admission, as they say. It'd be a worthy addition to any film collection and anyone who tells you differently, well then, maybe they're a cultural ignoramus too just like my ex. And, like my ex, if I may resort to juvenile language for a moment, maybe even a big fat poopy-head as well...!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com





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