The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Whatever

I’ve been hearing about the movie for years, and finally decided to watch The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover tonight. It’s always described as “scandalous” and “controversial” and a “grotesque meditation on the nature of art, class, and sexuality” and an “unflinching dissection of societal taboos.”

I was thinking of phrases more like “tedious” and “gratuitous” and “an unredeemable waste of time.” I’m pretty sure that I “got” everything there was to get in the movie, but I just didn’t want it. And all the French New Wave-style symbolism just struck me as pretentious and boorish.

Can anyone here name something redeemable about the movie?

It made me lose my appetite. That’s about it.

I like a lot of “art” movies, but this wasn’t one of them. I think that French New Wave has had it’s day.

If you want to see an endearing, unusual, funny and fresh French move, see Amelie.

I love this movie. It has to be just about the most beautiful looking moving I’ve ever seen. The costumes, sets and music compliment each other perfectly.

However, Peter Greenaway movies are most definitely an acquired taste and I can understand why most people don’t like it.

It was great. Surreal, but great.

I especially love the line Georgina says to Albert (after we’ve heard Albert’s various bigoted opinions):

“It’s a man. He’s Jewish. And he’s from Ethiopia. His mother is a Roman Catholic. He’s been in prison in South Africa. He’s as black as the Ace of spades. And he probably drinks his own pee.”

I am a big fan of Peter Greenaway.

Check out “Belly of an architect” and “Drowning by Numbers” to see if they are more to your taste.

Symbolism is a big part of his movies, so it may be difficult to see the attraction of such films if you find that approach pretentious.

Certainly, at a visual level, it’s a very memorable film as far as I’m concerned. In particular, I loved the way the theme colours of each room changed as the camera tracked from one part of the restaurant to the next. That was cool.

By the way, another really funny French film I saw in the last year (starring my fave French actor of all time, Daniel Auteil) was “The Closet” - about a guy who was about to lose his job at a factory, so he makes out he’s gay to pray on the “we can’t sack a gay guy” mentality.

Very funny study of political correctness is that film. (Forgive the slight hi-jack there. “Amelie” is lovely too. We even named our first child’s middle name after the film. Yes, she’s a girl!)

It’s been many years since I’ve seen it – but the one thing that sticks with me is that I think I may have hated Michael Gambon’s charactor more than any on-screen role I have ever seen. I suppose I’d call that an accomplishment.

Pshaw! I can name three:

  1. The allegorical challenge to 80’s neo-conservatism. (think of Richard Bohringer’s delivery of the oft heard line “Mister Spica…”)

  2. Helen Mirren’s rack.

  3. Frozen pig heads!

  1. The thief gets asked something about the last thing he read and his response was “a french letter.” I thought that joke was hilarious.

Fucking depressing, disturbing film.

Reedeeming quality? It’s still depressing and disturbing 10 years later.

This was a terrible film. I hated it. That is all.

Count me in on the "I hated it"s. Oddly, my husband, with whom I agree about practically every other movie we’ve ever seen, loved this movie and went back to see it the very next night. Sans me obviously.

I will never forgive Peter Greenaway for sticking me with the image of the little boy murdered for the rest of my life. I wish somebody offered a memory wiping service.

That’s the big reason why the news of Gambon being the new Dumbledore made me wince.

I loved this movie.

I agree with you Sol! What a waste of time that I can never recover.

I went to see it with friends when it first came out and it’s one of the few movies I’ve considered walking out of. The only reason I didn’t was every time I thought about it I decided the worst had to be over, and every time I was wrong.

I’m not into arty/pretentious, and I’m afraid I’ve got a low tolerance for brutality and ugliness, so this was clearly not the right movie for me. It did make for interesting conversation after the movie, but it’s still the one movie I’ve disliked the most, and I’m still apologizing to a different friend for taking her to see Magnolia.


Loved it. Loved Magnolia, too.

Loved it also. Think of it as a Jacobean tragedy, and it will make sense.

Funny isn’t it how certain films can engender such passionate “love it or hate it” type responses?

SolGrundy-- Amen, brother. “Cook Michael for me!” made me laugh my ass off. I felt like I was supposed to like it, supposed to get it, but it just made me giggle with revulsion; certainly an odd response but not that fun really.

I loved it. The cinematography was gorgeous and the rigid formalism of the compositions reminded me alot of Kubrick’s work, Michael Nyman’s score was hynotic and Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren put in stunning performances. The Theif is one of the most repulsive characters ever put on screen (along with Michael Rooker’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). As you can see, I loved the form of this movie even if the content was Greenaway playing his old games again. Of course, If you’re allergic to allegory and symbolism, Greenaway is definitely not the director for you.

At least this movie has a relatively linear plot. To see just how far Greenaway is willing to push his little experiments and mind games I highly recommend Drowning By Numbers. For sheer visual overload, check out the baroque Prospero’s Books. Oh, and for anybody who found Cook, Thief, Wife… too much, make sure you stay the hell away from Baby of Macon.