THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER
In so much as a Peter Greenaway film might be said to have a point Greenaway films usually just are The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover is Greenaways joke on the snobbery of fine dining. The film is exquisitely dressed, filled with beautifully elegant arrays of colour-coordinated set dressings and blinding salmon-on-white toilets. The photography is ravishingly beautiful some of Alan Howard and Helen Mirrens lovemaking in daises of wheat and amid racks of pheasants are stunning in the perfect rustic arrangements of dressings and lighting.
Many of Peter Greenaways films from this point onwards have become fascinated with taboo breaking. Here Greenaway constantly contrasts all the good eating and high society elegance with sharp violence. Amid these exquisite surroundings, Michael Gambon goes about his thuggish business, brutalising his wife, other diners and cohorts alike with his combination of bullying and an insistence on the manners of good eating with a menu he can only pronounce in pidgin French. The film opens with a brutalised victim forced to eat faeces and then being urinated upon. All the violence forced upon characters shit-eating, button-eating, paper-suffocation, forced eating of soup and the final macabre cannibalistic joke is related to eating, making The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover perhaps the first film about the horror of rapacity. Food is used as all manner of symbolism at one amusing point, the slicing on cucumbers, cauliflowers and the splitting of peppers is intercut with Helen Mirren and Alan Howards lovemaking. The effect is rather sophisticatedly decadent. Indeed, this is one of Peter Greenaways best works the droll lightness of touch that eludes many of his later works comes off just perfectly.
The other Peter Greenaway films of genre note are: the abovementioned The Falls (1980); several episodes of the modernised tv series A TV Dante (1989-91); Prosperos Books (1991), Greenaways interpretation of Shakespeares The Tempest (1611); The Baby of Macon (1993), a barbed period comedy about a divinely conceived child; and The Tulse Luper Suitcases: The Moab Story (2003), The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: From Vaux to the Sea (2004) and The Tulse Luper Suitcases Part 3: From Sark to the Finish (2004), a surreal mock biography that is part of a mammoth multimedia work from Greenaway.