Sunday, 6 February 2011

Food on Film. 6. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Peter Greenway’s brutal 1989 film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, starring Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Alan Howard and Richard Bohringer, is set in a restaurant owned by Albert Spicer (Gambon) - a violent London gangster. It is notable for its tracking shots, breathtaking cinematography (Sacha Verney), and a terrific Michael Nyman score. The camera tracks from the gutters of Thatcher’s dog-shit strewn London streets, through an endless kitchen that seems to compress British history, and into a dining room presided over by Gambon's malevolent presence - a place where wealth and power are everything.
Food in Peter Greenaway’s films is more often rotting than wholesome (e.g., see also A Zed and Two Noughts). With its timeless kitchen, the film suggests that expensive dining and criminal activity have often been linked in London’s past. The Thief is a philistine who tears at his food, in contrast to the book-wormish Lover, with his sophisticated tastes, who is clearly doomed in a society like this. Ultimately, however, a revenge of sorts is dished out.

A tough call this, as there's only room for one cannibalism-related film in a Top Ten Food Films listing; so this stands in for Delicatessen, Eating Raoul, Ravenous, Sweeny Todd, Titus Andronicus, Soylent Green, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Eat the Rich, Cannibal Hookers... (a Top Ten in their own right!).

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