Sex & Food in Cinema: “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” (1989) – Daring Rendezvous

Sex & Food in Cinema Series

“I need it.”


The daring rendezvous scene. 

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” is director Peter Greenaway’s brilliant, innovative, disturbing, lurid entre into the Romance Crime genre. Greenaway fans are rightfully anguished about the pitiful box office showing (a distressing $7.7 million for the 1989 feature), but that comes with the remote territory of a Greenaway film. Leads Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren), the abused, frustrated wife of gutter louse “The Thief” and restauranteur-wannabe Albert Spica (Michael Gambon), who spends, it feels, a third of the film in vulgar chatter between bellowing Georgiiiiiinnnnnna and mauling her, slam down performances that shine, shine, shine under Greenaway’s direction and script. The bookish “Lover” Michael, played by Alan Howard and “The Cook,” Richard Bohringer as Richard Boars, round out the principle cast.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife film excerpt. Sign up and enjoy the Sex, Food and Cinema series from Liquescence.

Emotionally violent and visceral (no spoilers, please!), noted for its expansive nudity, the theatrical cinematography of Sacha Vierny, minimalist Michael Nyman’s score (a frequent collaborator with Greenaway) and Jean-Paul Gaultier’s sexy, ornate, hybrid costumes (Madonna made use of his talents for the “Cone Bra” in her 1990 Blond Ambition concert tour), all these elements pushed the film into the cult favorite lane years after release. Critic Roger Ebert handed it four out of four stars. (Read Ebert’s review. )

In this scene, in Albert’s restaurant and thug hangout Le Hollandais, Georgina and Michael sneak surreptitious looks at one another while eating dessert as The Thief rumbles and booms. Georgina excuses herself to the ladies’ room, soon followed by The Lover. It’s their first encounter, and they don’t exchange a single word.

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