9 posts categorized "British Gangster"

October 19, 2023

THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER — SHOCKTOBER!

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ColeSmithey.comPeter Greenaway's reputation as Britain's most ferocious intellectual filmmaker reached its apex in 1989 with his sixth feature film.

Although everything about this black comedy including its tongue-twisting title challenges audiences, "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" remains Greenaway's most successful effort.

Methodically constructed in the Jacobean form of Elizabethan revenge tragedies, the movie is an unrestrained attack on Margaret Thatcher's version of Ronald Reagan-style capitalism that infected the globe.

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Greenaway conceived his film as a play, "a performance," with which the audience is meant to engage. His strict adherence to formal laws of theatrical dramaturgy, including proscenium staging, is attenuated by a non-stop assault of physical and verbal violence from the film's loathsome antagonist Albert Spica. In the role of Albert, Michael Gambon embodies his boorish character with a virulent toxicity of epic scale.

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Greenaway lets the audience know what it's in for during a tense opening sequence. Albert dislodges the owner of a haute cuisine restaurant named Le Hollandaise. The restaurant's proprietor "Roy"--note the allusion to a "king" — hasn't been keeping up on his protection payments to Albert, a mean-spirited mob boss with a taste for fine dishes he can barely pronounce.

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Peter Greenaway predicted a future he hoped wouldn't arrive. It did. The vicious way Albert tortures Roy and smears his nude body with feces reflects the same cruel brand of devastating psychological humiliation later committed by guards at Guantánamo prison.

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Against Albert's orders his elegant wife Georgina (Helen Mirren) smokes cigarettes as a singular act of insubordination. Knowing her turn will come, she nevertheless tolerates Albert's brutish behavior toward others. Inside the grand restaurant Albert confers with his "employee," a veteran French chef named Richard (Richard Bohringer), about the menu.

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The dining room's red color scheme is watched over by Dutch painter Frans Hals's "Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard Company" —  another thematic poke by the filmmaker. Albert spews his cockney variety of verbal bile at a large rectangular table that allows for Greenaway's formal tableaux compositions to blossom. Challenging thematic ideas come in spades.

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Striking costumes by Jean-Paul Gautier and a haunting musical score by Michael Nyman augment the film's purposefully artificial execution. Georgina strikes up an affair with Michael (Alan Howard), a solitary man who reads as he dines across from Albert's table of savages.

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Over the course of the next few nights the lovers retreat to the restaurant's bathroom and kitchen to make love between courses. Their trysts represent a desperate escape of independent thinkers from an oppressive outside world that would just as soon eat them alive, or dead.

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"The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" is a masterpiece of British cinema built on several hundred years of literary tradition. The film must be viewed more than once to begin to digest its pungent and subtle layers of rope-thick satire. There are far worse cinematic fates to be had. 

Rated X. 124 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“ SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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BURKE & HARE — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comJohn Landis's loving homage to the Vaudeville and Grand Guignol-based humor of Britain's Ealing Studios is a retrofitted black comedy filled with slapstick gags and wink-wink cameos by stalwart British actors. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis show off their mastery of the Irish idiom as William Burke and William Hare, respectively.

The two immigrant pals arrive in 1820s Edinburgh to ply their skills as conmen out to make their life’s fortune on whatever scheme will work.

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The local grave-robbing trade has gone cold since the constable began patrolling the cemeteries at night. Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson), head of the Edinburgh Medical School, requires fresh corpses for his latest project to map the insides of the human body. The determined doctor will pay five quid for each cadaver delivered, no questions asked.

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An opportune death of a fellow lodger in their boarding house provides Burke and Hare with the funds to escape eviction. As logic and plot would have it, the two desperate men turn to speeding up the local mortality rate. Hare takes better to their new line of paid serial killing, until Burke finds financial motivation in the eyes of Ginny (Isla Fisher), an actress/prostitute with dreams of staging an all-women production of “Macbeth.”

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Burke steps up to finance Ginny’s play in the hopes of winning her slightly sullied heart. Cameo turns from the likes of Tim Curry and Christopher Lee add to the fun of this bawdy chamber piece of British cinema.

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Rated R. 91 mins.

Three Stars SHOCKTOBER!!!!!!Cozy Cole

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July 23, 2013

WASTELAND

           Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

Welcome!

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This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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ColeSmithey.comRowan Athale’s debut feature is a British crime drama that wears its amateurishness on its sleeve. Conceived as a deconstructed heist movie, the over-worked plot dares its audience not to laugh out loud at its noticeably artificial underpinnings. You may feel like you’re holding the filmmaker’s hand in an adult/child relationship.

Luke Treadaway is woefully miscast as Harvey, a Yorkshire street tough fresh out of a yearlong prison term for a trumped-up drug-possession charge. Treadaway has a cutish boyish demeanor that undercuts his character’s potential for violent revenge that Harvey pursues against Roper (Neil Maskell), the scum responsible for putting him in the pokey. He’s just too squishy and soft.

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Athale employs a clichéd exposition device to house his drama. Detective Inspector West (Timothy Spall) questions a bruised and battered Harvey about a recent robbery at a local club. Harvey narrates the flashback action that landed him in the dark room where his fate will be determined.

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An assemble-the-team opening act introduces Harvey’s three working class buddies, whose poor command of grammar cues the audience as to where our sympathies ought to lie. Athale withholds key plot information in order to distract from ghost-in-the-machine plot revelations that arrive too late in the game.

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“Wasteland” comes off like an exercise in misdirection. Rowan Athale hasn’t learned the important principle that Alfred Hitchcock faithfully honored about earning and paying off on the viewer’s trust.

“Wasteland” is a waste of time.

Not Rated. 106 mins.

2 Stars

Cozy Cole

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