The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover

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The wife of an oafish restaurant owner becomes bored with her husband and considers an affair with a regular patron.

Release Year: 1989

Rating: 7.4/10 (15,846 voted)

Director: Peter Greenaway

Stars: Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren

The wife of a barbaric crime boss engages in a secretive romance with a gentle bookseller between meals at her husband's restaurant. Food, colour coding, sex, murder, torture and cannibalism are the exotic fare in this beautifully filmed but brutally uncompromising modern fable which has been interpreted as an allegory for Thatcherism.

Richard Bohringer - Richard Borst
Michael Gambon - Albert Spica
Helen Mirren - Georgina Spica
Alan Howard - Michael
Tim Roth - Mitchel
Ciarán Hinds - Cory
Gary Olsen - Spangler
Ewan Stewart - Harris
Roger Ashton-Griffiths - Turpin
Ron Cook - Mews
Liz Smith - Grace
Emer Gillespie - Patricia
Janet Henfrey - Alice
Arnie Breeveld - Eden
Tony Alleff - Troy

Taglines: Lust...Murder...Dessert. Bon Appetit!

Release Date: 6 April 1990

Filming Locations: Goldcrest Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK

Gross: $7,724,701 (USA)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | USA: (R-rated version)

Did You Know?

Peter Greenaway uses specific colors to represent each set of the film. The exterior of Le Hollandais is predominantly blue. The kitchen is mostly green. The seating area of the restaurant is red and the restrooms are stark white. The color of Georgina's dress and the sashes that Albert and his associates wear change to match this scheme as the characters move from room to room. The color of Georgina's cigarettes also changes to match the color of the set as she moves.

[last lines]
Georgina: Cannibal!

User Review

The Divine Comedy

Rating: 10/10

Imagine the universe as a restaurant. The parking lot is the world. The kitchen is purgatory. The ladies's room is heaven. The dining room is hell. Hell is ruled over by Albert Spica, (Satan) excellently played by Michael Gobon. Dante is Michael (Alan Howard) a cataloger of French books. Beatrice, Dante's perfect woman, Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren) who is married to the devil.

In the beginning, the cook (God) in the real world is seen kicked and smeared and fed dog feces by Gabon. He is humiliated and in tears, but He endures and eventually helps to further the love between Howard and MIrren. Sex, in its pure form, is looked at as something sacred. Gabon lords over everyone in his realm with a tyrant's fist, caring nothing about anyone or anything. He wants two three things out of life—superiority to all other being, food and sex, while Mirren, as a reluctant Persephone, sneaks off to be with Howard. A couple of times Gabon even finds his way into the sanctity of heaven, but this is only short-lived.

The mood of the film is dark-black, heralded by brilliant reds or greens, and the tenor of an angelic child throughout. Every image is like a painting. Emotions creep in from all directions.

This is a film that would never, no matter what year it was produced, have won an Academy Award. It is too refined, to subtle, too sensual, too intelligent.

Watch it, rent it, buy it. It must be seen.


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