Peter Greenaway directs this culinary tale of passion and revenge. An arrogant gangster (Michael Gambon) invests in a popular French restaurant, which he begins to frequent with his wife (Helen Mirren) and a band of crooks. He delights in humiliating his spouse, and, when she begins an affair with another patron (Alan Howard), the restaurant's cook (Richard Bohringer) tries to protect them from her husband's wrath.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
is both adored and detested for its combination of sumptuous beauty and revolting decadence. Few directors polarise audiences in the same way as Peter Greenaway, a filmmaker as influenced by Jacobean revenge tragedy and 17th-century painting as by the French New Wave. A vile, gluttonous thief (Michael Gambon) spews hate and abuse at a restaurant run by a stoic French cook (Richard Bohringer), but under the thief's nose his wife (the ever-sensuous Helen Mirren) conducts an affair with a bookish lover (Alan Howard). Clothing (by avant-garde designer Jean-Paul Gaultier) changes colour as the characters move from room to room. Nudity, torture, rotting meat, and Tim Roth at his sleaziest all contribute the atmosphere of decay and excess. Not for everyone, but for some, essential. --Bret Fetzer