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The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) - Peter Greenaway - Film Review

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) - Peter Greenaway - Film Review

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Published by Jake Bryant
Film Review
Film Review

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Categories:Types, Reviews
Published by: Jake Bryant on Dec 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/15/2012

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Film Review
 
Space & Environment
 
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover
Director: Peter Greenaway
 
Figure 1 Figure 2
 
‘ 
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and h
er Lover’ 
is a romantic crime drama that was bothwritten and directed by Peter Greenaway in 1989. The film depicts a narrative whichfollows a gang leader (Gambon) and his troublesome acts with his associates as theydine daily at a restaurant in which he recently purchased (Figure 1). His wife(Mirren), who attends dinner with him, is tired of her sadistic husband and finds alover in Michael (Howard), a fellow diner, and from then out begin a relationshiptogether in secret. The production is notable for its incorporation of graphicalviolence and nudism which shocked audiences during its initial release.Greenaway has produced a uniquely styled film which may not sit well with certainviewers, but the productions artistic style and theatricality is undeniable. The filmowes its art direction to Dutch still life paintings, where the style was originallyderived from, but also involves something suggestive to gothic themes within thekitchens of the set. Everything about
‘ 
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and h
er Lover’ 
 
hasa powerful sense of menace and has an insanely strong taste in terms of flavour intheme that is portrayed effectively through the films cinematography. Writer Webbstates that;
“ 
The Cook, The Thief His Wife & Her Lover is the cinematic equivalent of a spicy food dish. It's not for everyone, but it has a lot of distinct tastes to offer those who arewilling to venture out of their comfort zone
” 
(Webb, 2010)
The opinion in which Webb shares is agreeable in many senses sharing an overall justification, but furthermore the idiosyncratic elements do expect an acquired taste.The Jacobean influences arguably provide for the starting point from where thedistinct flavours begin, involving an uncommon and robust style choice which hadn
tbeen as expressive within cinema. Audiences viewing from a narrow point of viewpossibly gain an insight for the film being distasteful, but from an open-minded
 
perspective, the production opens expressive doorways of gloriously richperformances that complement the lavish set design, and help to elaborate both anintricate and ostentatious plot enticing spectator attention from start to finish.
Figure 3
Nudity was a bold choice from Greenaway, and was seen as a shock by viewers,especially in the scenes which involved vivid sexual activity. In modern cinema,scenes of a sexual nature usually either heighten the tempo or express a deepromance, however, here it is hard not feel as if the scenes are purposely composedto provide a break from the obnoxious behaviours of Albert and the chaos whichunfolds within the restaurant, to instead develop a mellow, calmer mood in asoothing space within the kitchens. Ebert acknowledges;
“ 
The sex scenes in this movie are as hungry and passionate as any I have seen, and yet they are upstaged by the rest of the film, which is so uncompromising in itssavagery that the sex seems tranquil by comparison
” 
 
(Ebert, 1999)
 
Ebert
s opinion shares a view that debatably could have various interpretations ormeanings, with one possibly stating that these sensual scenes
aren’t
as
hungry 
’ 
 
or
 
‘ 
 passionate
’ 
as the other acts which, in a sense, is acceptable. The juxtapositionbetween characters provide for this vibe as the conventions build upon these scenesin a satisfying manner. For example; the animosity you feel towards
Albert’s
treatingof Georgina as a viewer strengthens the way in which you interpret the bondbetween her and Michael. This reflection argues that the true elements whichpresent the more profound emotion within different areas of the film are the onesthat lead to the affective events. Additionally, suggestive comparisons between therelationships of food and sex are drawn on over these scenes, and also imply similarideas between life and death.
Figure 4
 
On top of the films already graphical nature, the set and costume design as well asthe sound production all complete this as an experience to remember.
The Cook,The Thief His Wife & Her Lover 
’ 
 
involved many artists in its production and combinesmultitudes of talents and skills to create a cinematic experience which expresses alot of finery in regards to the desired things in life, however, suggests that no matterhow wonderful or visually pleasing things appear, the negative hungers thathumanity crave will still seep through. Reviewers Frederic and MaryAnn Brussatsshare a similar view.
“ 
Beneath the thin veneer of civilization
lovely art objects, fine clothes, gourmet  food, and classic literature
our insatiable appetites for cruelty, violence, racism,and power keep us slathering at the level of beasts.
” 
 
(Brussats, 2004)
All of these elements united create a highly melodramatic artwork. The peculiartheatrical camera work from Sacha Vierny, the beautiful costumes design from Jean-Paul Gaultier, and the chillingly pulsating soundscape from Michael Nyman, all make
The Cook, The Thief His Wife & Her Lover 
’ 
 
a highly dramatized and emotional filmwhich grips and disgusts viewers while entertaining in a horrifically comedic way.

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