PRINT April 1990


The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

IN PETER GREENAWAY'S NEW FILM, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, the Lover is killed by the thief, and the wife talks to the cook, in whose restaurant most of the action takes place, about his view of her affair. “I saw only what you wanted me to see,” he tells Georgina (Helen Mirren), who replies, “Of course. How could I know it was real unless someone sow?” The “of course” smooths over a contradiction: the remark of the cook, Richard (Richard Bohringer), implies that Georgie is a gatekeeper of information; her reply suggests that there is no information outside the witness. This neatly sums up the dilemma of responding to Greenaway’s film. On the one hand, as auteur, Greenaway seems to control our interpretation, and we in turn feel a need to pin down his intention, to make him a moral agent. On the other, the film is constructed by its viewers, in which case we are talking

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