The wife of an abusive criminal finds solace in the arms of a kind regular guest in her husband’s restaurant.
Peter Greenaway’s cruel, over-the-top, metaphoric, and allegorical truth-telling film established linkages between gastronomy and bodily functions, and sex and death. The sensational film’s putrescence, debasement and excesses (sadism, cannibalism, torture, fornication, puke, and rotting fish and meat) and scatological themes (force-feeding of excrement (termed coprophagy), urination on victims) forced the Motion Picture Association of America to give the film an “X” rating. The film’s tagline was:
LUST…MURDER…DESSERT. BON APPETIT!
The film (after being denied an appeal) was released unrated by the producers, and then given an NC-17 rating by the time of its video release. An alternative R-rated version cut out about 30 minutes of footage.In all of cinematic history, it remains the third highest-grossing NC-17 rated film at $7.7 million, slightly behind Henry & June (1990) at $11.6 million, and way behind the # 1 NC-17 film, Showgirls (1995) at $20.3 million.
It was set mostly within a huge trendy haute cuisine London restaurant (Le Hollandais) with evening banquets every night over a nine-evening period. The film featured four main characters:
Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer), the kitchen’s head French chef – THE COOK
Albert Spica (Michael Gambon), the gluttonous, uncouth, unsophisticated, and maniacal boss – THE THIEF
Georgina Spica (Helen Mirren), Albert’s desperate and much-humiliated wife – THE WIFE
Michael (Alan Howard), the wife’s bookwormish patron diner – THE LOVER
Histrionic conversations were about food, excrement and sex. After discovering his adulterous Wife’s unfaithfulness and hungry trysts with the Lover (during visits to the ladies’ room stall, kitchen and bakery pantry and refrigerated meat freezer in the back of a truck, filmed with unflattering lighting), the brutal Albert decided upon savage, cannibalistic revenge on the man (ironically stating and foreshadowing: “I’ll cook him! And I’ll eat him!”).
Michael was killed by force-feeding him with pages from a book. To retaliate, Wife Georgina had the Cook bake up her Lover’s corpse for her husband and then headed a procession bringing in the veiled body for a surprise dinner. She forced her husband at gunpoint to eat the warmed-up cadaver:
“Try the cock — it’s a delicacy. And you know where it’s been.”
Stunned, Albert took a bite and vomited, as The Wife encouraged him to eat more (“Bon appetit, Albert. That’s French”) – and then shot him to death, condemning him as a “Cannibal.”
Director: Peter Greenaway
Tags: Alan Howard, Ciarán Hinds, Ewan Stewart, Free movies 1989, Gary Olsen, Helen Mirren, His Wife & Her Lover, His Wife & Her Lover Online, Liz Smith, Michael Gambon, Richard Bohringer, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, The Cook, the Thief, Tim Roth