Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1980s Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The (1989)

Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, The (1989)

Iconoclastic filmmaker Peter Greenaway outdoes himself with this darkly humorous Jacobean fairy tale of eating, love, sex and death.

The film boasts breathtaking production design, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s garish costumes and Sacha Vierny’s artfully stunning camera work.

This violent and grimly comic work is not for everyone – the menu contains swearing, screwing, stealing, cooking, eating, drinking, burping, choking, vomiting, defecating, punching, kicking and killing – but those with a strong stomach will be amply rewarded by Greenaway’s most accessible film.

Michael Gambon is imperious and violent in a gloriously rich performance, whilst Helen Mirren (in a role which was originally intended for Vanessa Redgrave) is all calm courteousness and reserved acceptance until her resentment is inflamed.


The setting is a smart French restaurant, Le Hollandaise, where every night the chef (Richard Bohringer) prepares a lavish menu.

Among his regular customers are Albert Spica (Gambon), a loudmouthed, boorish, violent London gangster, who dines with his entourage of seedy underlings, and his frustrated wife, Georgina (Mirren) – mistakenly believing that eating at Le Hollandaise gives him class.

Georgina is attracted to a solitary book-reading diner in the restaurant, Michael (Alan Howard), and the two begin a secret affair under the nose of her violent husband during frequent trips to the lavatory.

With the help of the restaurant’s voyeuristic chef (Richard Bohringer), each night the lovers meet for a clandestine rendezvous in toilets and pantries without the knowledge of Albert – until their secret is eventually revealed.

Albert spirals into an angry rage over his wife’s infidelity and takes a typically violent revenge, triggering a more unusual retaliation from her with a unique last supper.


Albert Spica
Michael Gambon
Georgina Spica

Helen Mirren
Richard Boarst

Richard Bohringer

Alan Howard

Tim Roth

Ciaran Hinds

Gary Olsen

Ewan Stewart

Roger Ashton-Griffiths

Ron Cook

Liz Smith

Emer Gillespie

Janet Henfrey

Arnie Breeveld

Tony Alleff

Paul Russell

Alex Kingston
Terry Fitch

Ian Dury

Peter Greenaway