For this, his seventh soundtrack for director Peter Greenaway, Nyman deftly orchestrates a mix of strings, horns, and voices to produce another of his fetching and romantic minimalist backdrops. The opening "Memorial" is the highlight of the lot and drives along with stuttering saxophones, an insistent string arrangement, elegiac brass solos, and the soaring vocals of soprano Sarah Leonard (Leonard would be featured on a large part of the Prospero's Books soundtrack). The piece was originally inspired by a 1985 Belgian soccer match tragedy, in which 39 Italian fans were killed. Nyman utilized a death march in his earlier Greenaway collaboration, Drowning by Numbers, and revives the scheme to great effect here for what would become the main theme of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Nyman contrasts the piece's climatic quality with two relatively sedate yet brooding numbers.
This is probably Peter Greenaway's most famous (or infamous) film, which first shocked audiences at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and then on both sides of the Atlantic. A gang leader (Michael Gambon), accompanied by his wife (Helen Mirren) and his associates, entertains himself every night in a fancy French restaurant that he has recently bought. Having tired of her sadistic, boorish husband, the wife finds herself a lover (Alan Howard) and makes love to him in the restaurant's coziest places with the silent permission of the cook (Richard Bohringer). Though less cerebral than Greenaway's other films, featuring deadly passions reminiscent of Jacobean revenge tragedies of the early 17th century, the picture still offers the director's usual ironic and paradoxical comments on the relations between eating and sex, love and death.