Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)

Back in the 1980s, while Canada had David Cronenberg and the US had David Lynch, here in the UK we had Welsh-born Peter Greenaway to give us some home-grown art-house horror. Movies like A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS and DROWNING BY NUMBERS revealed a singular view of the world that was simultaneously as beautiful in its design and as it was disturbing in its implication. And Greenaway’s unique vision is at its most deliciously decadent and outrageously horrific in THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER, soon to be re-released on DVD by Fabulous Films.

Gang boss Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) likes nothing more than dining at his favourite restaurant, which he also happens to own. Other favourite past-times include beating up his wife Georgina (Helen Mirren), beating up guests and, with the aid of subordinates that include Tim Roth and Ciaran Hinds, generally beating up anyone who crosses him. 

When Georgina begins an affair with restaurant customer Michael (Alan Howard), meeting him in between courses or during trips to the lavatory, it is only a matter of time before Albert finds out and wreaks bloody revenge. But Georgina, head chef Richard (Richard Bohringer) and the others whom Albert has abused have a final trick up their sleeves that leads to one of the all-time classic scenes in the art-house horror subgenre.

Put together with all the care and attention of the Renaissance paintings it seems to be doing its best to emulate, THE COOK THE THIEF exhibits thoughtful production and costume design (the latter courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier and some fabulously flamboyant creations), photography and lighting that makes some scenes look like Rembrandt by way of Mario Bava, and perhaps most of all, casting. The leads are all excellent, with Gambon’s brutal villain a superb portrayal of boorish cruelty. The smaller roles are a delight also, however. Look out for Ian Dury, Gary Olsen, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Liz Smith, Alex Kingston, Diane Langton and Bob Goody amongst others.

Fabulous Films’ transfer is in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio (some previous DVD releases haven’t been). Unfortunately the print hasn’t been restored, so expect some black marks and scratches every now and then. On the whole, though, the transfer looks fine and in the absence of any forthcoming Blu-ray release, pop this into your player and rack up the HD settings on your TV and it’s certainly better than nothing. Which, by the way, is what you get in the form of extras. 

Fabulous Films are releasing Peter Greenaway's THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER on Region 2 DVD on 
14th March 2016

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