'The Cook, the Thief . . .'' is called 'elegant, brutal'


October 14, 1990|By New York Times News Service

New releases of video cassettes; reviews by New York Times critics.

"The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover," 1990. Vidmark. $89.95. Laser disk, $39.95. Closed captioned. Unrated.

Peter Greenaway's elegant, brutal film explores what would happen to love and the social order if the most crass, sadistic people were to gain power. In a milieu of sophisticated taste, the thief, who talks and acts as if he has crawled out of a sewer, dines nightly at a restaurant with his henchmen while his wife disports with a bookish fellow behind the scenes on the premises.

"I Love You to Death," 1990. RCA/Columbia. $91.95. Laser disk, $34.95. Closed captioned. R.

As Joey Boca, a philandering, madly self-absorbed pizza parlor operator, Kevin Kline gives the kind of bravura performance rarely found in today's realistic movies. A cheerful, irrepressible heel, Joey drives his wife (Tracy Ullmann) and his mother-in-law (Joan Plowright) to try to kill him, but proves as indestructible as Rasputin. "Everything Mr. Kline does is both too much and absolutely right . . . both manic and laid back."

"Stanley and Iris," 1990. MGM/UA. $89.98. Laser disk, $34.98. Closed captioned. PG-13.

They work in the same bakery in a small New England factory town. She's a widow with two children; he's a loner ashamed of his illiteracy. After meeting on a bus, Iris (Jane Fonda) teaches Stanley (Robert De Niro) to read. Martin Ritt's love story about two keenly observed, seemingly commonplace people "represents a kind of committed film making generally out of favor . . . as honest and direct and entertaining as the considerable talents of everyone involved can make it."

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