The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover (1990) Review
As pretentious a film as I’ve ever seen…. or at least, it’s near the top of the list. It begins with gratuity showing Michael Gambon’s Albert having his men strip a man while he rubs feces and urinates on him, preceding an hour where Gambon blathers without interuption save for an annoying young soprano’s screeching. The whole movie’s nothing more than an absurdist stage play.
Even when Helen Mirren’s Georgina starts going to the restroom to have sex with another patron (Alan Howard), they don’t speak and shortly after beginning to engage with one another, of course, Gambon comes in gabbling for his wife each time.
This film is by and for elitists, yet the director Peter Greenaway must have felt that he was being so clever that he had to remind his core audience how brilliant he’s being. I, personally, got that Gambon was an obnoxious @$$ 2 minutes into this. I didn’t need an hour of that. It didn’t help me focus on anything else as the movie’s characters claim or be bored becuase I want more of the ranting. That’s not manipulating your audience. It’s repetitively wasting time. That Greenaway had to linger on the table of Albert’s entourage when Albert leaves briefly to show that noone else was speaking was evidence that the director thought the audience too stupid to understand what was occuring onscreen without overkill.
Then, at the hour mark, Mirren and Howard discuss a movie that Howard ‘once saw’ (Wink. Wink), with an abrasive character as the only one that spoke for an hour (and how it was riveting). That was news to me because I had to fight to stay awake and hitting the ‘stop’ button.
It also was a poor choice by Greenaway to reveal Mirren’s plan of revenge before it occurs. It completely took the scene’s suspense and horror away. It ended up just as static presentation as the rest of the film is. I Why this got an X rating originally I’ll never know. Because Helen Mirren and Alan Howard were walking around naked? Their sex scenes amounted to little more than posing together.
And the dirty red and maroon colors the entire film were just ugly to look at. So what if the people were wearing fashionable clothing? It didn’t make the story any better. I’m sure in between sucking their thumbs watching this, Siskel and Ebert (back in the day) glared at each other with their fingertips over their mouths throughout the film (whenever ‘naughtiness’ was depicted), though. This only really had enough story for a half hour TV show (with commercial breaks), but they torturously stretched it out to over two hours to inflict maximum abuse on the viewer. It might have made a good episode of ‘Tales From The Dark Side’, back then. Should have remained a stage play.
2.5 of 5