Monday, 19 December 2016

"The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" review

Peter Greenaway - artist, writer, director, who is known as an English-postmodernist director thanks to his films of the 80s. As Greenaway(1992) said himself, over 20 years, he is true to himself, making movies about "sex and death, the only things that film should be made about".
"The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" made in 1989 surprises, impresses, causing disgust and admiration all in once. The whole point of the film unfolds in its title. Douglas Kelley( 2006:83)  expressed a fascinating idea that characters in the title "represent certain vices and certain virtues: Richard the Cook is Art; Albert Spica the Thief is Greed; the Wife, Georgina, is Love, and her Lover, Michael, is Knowledge."
In "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" despite film's deep meaning and ideas, it also has a beautiful image and a pretty exciting story, in spite of a minimum of dynamics and events.
The film reminds us of a theatrical production- acts, scenes, decorations, costumes, which where made by a famous fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" has everything: stress, emotions, beauty, the elements of eroticism. In the beginning, all the food in the kitchen and the restaurant even seems to us very appetising. However, the feeling of appetency fastly disappears, and instead of it comes disgust, but it But it does not spoil the film, conversely, it makes "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" better, stronger and it is an important part of its atmosphere.
Enchanting music of Michael Nyman is worth noticing, which fits perfectly into the surroundings of the film and makes it stressful and very tense. In contrast with all the immorality and dirt in the movie, there is an angelic voice of a child, which in the end is destroyed by the embodiment of all the negative that is in man.(see fig.1)
Figure 1. Kitchen boy singing with his angelic voice(2016)

The main visual component of the film is a change of colour in the environment and characters when camera is smoothly and slowly moving from room to room. As Caryn James(1990) points out "These visually stunning, ever-changing scenes could only exist on film, and the artifice is a great part of the work's effectiveness.
Red - the colour of human passions. The main room - restaurant's room for guests, has a bright red colour. There triumph sins like - pride, envy, anger, greed, crapulence. People spend a lot of time there, in their sins.
Figure 2. Georgina and Michael's silent desire for each other in the "red" room(2010)

White - the colour of purification and truth. It is interesting how first sex scene of Michael and Georgina happens in the Ladies room, the only room with white colour, and not in "sin" red room.(see fig.2)
"The kitchen is jungle-green, suggesting safety"(Gayla Mills) However mixed with food green colour also represents disgust.
The ending amazes and sickens, so even if you want to you cannot turn away. Many victims of Albert Spica take revenge on him for all of his torture and suffering by feeding Georgina's dead lover Michael to him.(see fig.3)
Figure 3. Torture of Albert Spica(2015)

1. Greenaway, P. (1992) [Interview face to face, 1992]
2. Kelley,D.(2006) The films of Peter Greenaway:sex, death, and provocation. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London:McFarland & Company
3. James, C. (1990) Review/Film; Peter Greenaway's Elegant and Brutal 'Cook',, accessed on 19 December 2016.
4. Mills, G."The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, her Lover, and the sickness" C'Ville Review, accessed on 19 December 2016.


1. Figure 1. Michael Waldron(2016)[Film Still], accessed on 19 December 2016.
2. Figure 2. Leo Goldsmith(2010)[Film Still], accessed on 19 December 2016.
3. Figure 3. Leon Nicholson(2015)[Film Still], accessed on 19 December 2016.

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