A bastard restaurant owner brings his wife to dinner every night and when he thinks she is going to the bathroom she's actually sleeping around with her lover, the gentleman who sits alone at a table reading every night. The cook knows about their affair and helps them hide it from the swine that is her husband by letting them use the kitchen as their sex palace.
One of the most commonly talked about of Peter Greenaway's film is probably this one, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover". And it's especially one of those titles that instantly stick with you even if you don't look it up. This is a title I knew of way before I knew who Peter Greenaway was or what movies he made. Hell, upon noticing he made this film I still didn't want to watch it because I thought "Oh it's that movie title again". I couldn't get interested since I was already bored of seeing the name. True story. I'm silly like that.
Without any digging you will be treated with a story about... the cook, the thief, his wife and her lover. It's all pretty covered there. The thief is a fat asshole restaurant owner, the cook is the cook in his kitchen. The wife sleeps around with the literature nerd behind her husband's back, and the cook helps them do it in his kitchen. On the surface alone this is a highly entertaining movie, it's filled with crude comedy and demented drama. A fable-ish story that surrounds four people and their very strict roles in the play.
That's all fine, I actually think it works very well at just being an absurd dramedy. But Peter Greenaway wouldn't really just make a weird movie, would he? Supposedly the story is about the thief representing Margaret Thatcher, the lover being the intellectual left wings. This is something I haven't gone deeper into, being very bored of politics all-around, but it's a very interesting thing when you do some closer inspections. Most of it seems to add up well and makes the movie worthy of at least another watch. But don't be scared, if you are like me and are lost whenever someone brings up politics, you can still enjoy this film immensely.
What makes the movie work so well outside of the Thatcherism is the setting, the style, the lighting and the overall atmosphere it gives off. It's set in a big French restaurant but it's lit up with greens, reds, and such colors, and looks more like a stage than anything. The camera often moves sideways as if they were literally filming a stage from the side, too. I'm a sucker for a nice looking movie and this was just colorful enough to hook me in on that alone.
This is a pretty erotic film overall with lots of sex and nudity, but there's just as many disgusting things such as slaughtered animals, cannibalism, feces. But the movie wouldn't be anything without it's crazy characters, from the thief who is just one big crazy fucker, to Tim Roth's Mitchel character who just seems to be saying anything appropriate that comes to mind. Beyond all the sex and filth, the movie's strength is in the characters. I was especially surprised by Helen Mirren's fantastic performance as she's not an actress I care too much about otherwise. But having seen this I can't imagine a better actress for this part.
"The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" works for everyone. If you want a political statement, you got it. If you want fucked up scenes, you got it. If you want absurdist comedy, you got it. You want strange and well-played characters, you got it. It's a visual treat as well! Hell, you want a sad story, you got it. There really is no reason for you to keep away from this movie, it was stupid of me to stay away from it for the longest time.