Peter Greenaway’s horrifying epic features scenes of cannibalism, brutality, humiliation, revenge, exhibitionism, and deaths that even Charles Manson could not dream up. The main character, Albert Spicer is the owner of a restaurant called Hollandaise.

Michael Gambon portrays Spicer as a brash, arrogant, violent criminal. He dines every night at the only restaurant that would have him, (his own) with his entourage of gigolos, whores, hairdressers and criminals.

Helen Mirren plays his long suffering wife, who indulges in an affair with Alan Howard’s bespectacled, brown suited bookseller. Their affair is played out in the restaurant toilets and the kitchens, sometimes amongst pheasants hanging in the meat cupboard, as they are oblivious to the comings and goings of kitchen staff. The chef, played by Richard Bohringer, indulges the illicit lovers, finding ways to help them meet.


The opulent sets and fancy, frivolous costumes designed by Jean Paul Gautier are inspired by 17th century Dutch painting. Michael Nyman’s powerful, orchestral score is used to heighten the drama of Gautier’s theatrical colour themed sets. The restaurant is shot in courtly, refined reds and the backdrop is a huge 17th century painting by Franz Hanz with civilised gentlemen wearing ruffled collars. The toilets are shot in a heavenly white, an oasis for the secret lovers, who exchange no words. The costumes also change colour as the actors move between scenes to match the sets.

This film is a powerful mix of stunning visuals, fine acting and an excellent plot. It is so pacy, that there is not a moment to catch your breath or the contents of your stomach! This is a must see, if you like exhibitionism, opulence, death and revenge…