Thief [1981]

Director: Michael Mann
Stars: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, James Belushi, Robert Prosky
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 122 minutes

Few directors polarize audiences like Peter Greenaway, a filmmaker as influenced by Jacobean revenge tragedy and 17th century painting as by the French New Wave. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover is both adored and detested for its combination of sumptuous beauty and revolting decadence. A vile, gluttonous thief (Michael Gambon, The Singing Detective) spews hate and abuse at a restaurant run by a stoic French cook (Richard Bohringer, Diva), but under the thief's nose his wife (the ever-sensuous Helen Mirren, Prime Suspect) conducts an affair with a bookish lover (Alan Howard, Strapless). Clothing (by avant-garde designer Jean-Paul Gaultier) changes color as the characters move from room to room. Nudity, torture, rotting meat, and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) at his sleaziest all contribute the atmosphere of decay and excess. Not for everyone, but for some, essential. --Bret Fetzer

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Mrs. Knowles:
I see on your application here - by the way, you misspelled mail, it's M-A-L-E, the other's what we put in post boxes - I see you put under employer: 1959 to 1976, Joliet State Penitentiary.

Frank:
Yes.

Mrs. Knowles:
You worked for the state, I take it?

Frank:
After a fashion.

Mrs. Knowles:
And what did you do at the prison?

Frank:
Desks. I, uh, I spot-welded desks, and then I got promoted to shoes.

Mrs. Knowles:
You were in charge of the shop?

Frank:
Lady, I was a convict, I was doing time.

Mrs. Knowles:
You were what?

Jessie:
Frank, let's go.

Mrs. Knowles:
Umm, you have to understand, we have more applicants than children...

Frank:
Then why do you still have kids here? As a kid I would not be falling all over myself to stay in one of these places. We will relieve you of some of the burden.

Mrs. Knowles:
But the point is, we establish criteria for parenting, and an ex-convict compared to other desirables...

Frank:
Great, so we'll take a kid that's not so desirable. You got a black kid? We'll take a black kid. You got a chink kid?

Mrs. Knowles:
You don't seem to understand...

Frank:
Nobody likes older kids. You got an eight-year old black chink kid, we'll take him.

Jessie:
Frank...

Frank:
Wait.

Frank:
If it's a matter of, uh, y'know, here.

Mrs. Knowles:
What is that?

Frank:
What is that? That is D-flawless, three-point-two karats, emerald cut.

Mrs. Knowles:
This is not a marketplace.

Frank:
Right. Y'know, you're not smart enough to take this anymore than you are to, to, recognize good parents.

Mrs. Knowles:
Get out of my office.

Frank:
You did not ask about us. You didn't ask what kind of people we are. There is a child waiting, and you are denying us him, and him us. Who the hell are you?

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