Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover [1989]

Genre: Crime, Drama
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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