Peter Greenaway’s grim sense of humor and cheerful assault on all our sacred cows is evident in this new outing from the iconoclastic filmmaker.
Setting is a smart restaurant, La Hollan- daise, where Richard, the chef (Richard Bohringer) prepares a lavish menu every night. Among his regular customers are Albert Spica (Michael Gambon), a loudmouthed, vulgar, violent gangster, who dines with his entourage of seedy yes-men, and his bored, beautiful wife, Georgina (Helen Mirren).
At another table each night sits Michael (Alan Howard), a quiet, diffident man who’s always reading books. He and Georgina make eye contact, and soon they’re having a series of secret rendezvous. Eventually Albert discovers his wife’s infidelity, and takes a typically violent revenge, triggering a more unusual retaliation from her.
Albert is one of the ugliest characters ever brought to the screen. Ignorant, over-bearing and violent, it’s a gloriously rich performance by Gambon.
In contrast, Helen Mirren (in a role which was originally to have been played by Vanessa Redgrave) is all calm politeness and mute acceptance until her passion is aroused by the (far from handsome) Michael.