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Albert Spica

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Albert Spica

Albert Spica, with his wife, Georgina.

Albert Spica is the main antagonist of the 1989 romance / black comedy / crime film, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. A violent, sadistic and thoroughly boorish gangster, Spica's ownership and patronage of the restaurant Le Hollandais and the miseries that occur within as a result forms the bulk of the film's plot.

He is played by Sir Michael Gambon, who also plays Jan Jarmokowski in The Beast Must Die and Eddie Temple in Layer Cake.

Biography

Little is known of Spica's past, though it presumably involved many years of sordid criminal activity, as by the start of the film, he has managed to acquire a gang of his own, along with sufficient funds to buy his way into the upper crust of society and keep himself insulated from police attention. At some point, he also married Georgina, likely for her appearance and sophistication over any deep attraction; despite praising her possession of "a heart of gold and a body to match," he verbally and physically abuses her over the course of the film, at one point outright raping her.

Vain and absurdly pretentious by nature, Spica has continued his efforts to appear cultured and sophisticated by buying the high-class restaurant Le Hollandais and forcing the the head chef and manager, Richard Borst, to comply with his every whim. Every night, Spica, Georgina and an entourage of fellow gangsters frequent the restaurant: when not lecturing his underlings of the importance of proper dining, Spica regularly abuses both the staff and the guests in as violent and disgusting a manner as possible, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he's actively damaging the business he claims to love so much. With the local police firmly in the gangster's pocket, there's little anyone can do about it - even when Spica has a debtor beaten up and smeared with dog feces right in front of the horrified staff.

However, the nightly routine changes when Georgina begins an affair with Michael, a bookstore owner and fellow patron at Le Hollandaise. Most of this can only be conducted at the restaurant and usually requires Georgina to spend every other hour in the bathroom, but Spica is as stupid as he is pretentious and thus fails to notice anything amiss about his wife's absence from the dinner table. As passive-aggressive revenge against Spica, Borst and the other staff begin allowing the two lovers to have sex in the kitchen as well. Unfortunately, this results in a prostitute among the gangster's entourage spotting the two of them through a skylight: during a heated argument with Spica later on, the woman angrily reveals the truth to him, mocking him for failing to notice the obvious reality - only for the enraged gangster to abruptly stab her in the face with a fork.

Spica then goes on a rampage through the restaurant, searching first the bathrooms then the kitchens in search for Michael and Georgina; fortunately, Borst has spirited the two lovers away on a meat truck, and no trace of them can be found. Beside himself with rage, Spica vows that he will kill Michael and eat him.

For a time, Georgina remains safely hidden at Michael's bookshop, relying on her husband's blistering contempt for reading to keep them concealed. As part of his continued alliance with the two, Borst regularly sends food to the lovers via Pup, the boy soprano employed at the kitchen. Unfortunately, Spica finds out and ambushes Pup on his way back to the restaurant, torturing the boy for information by force-feeding him his own shirt buttons and - to the horror and disgust of his fellow gangsters - threatening to cut off Pup's belly-button and make him eat it. Fortunately, Pup faints before Spica can start cutting, but the bookshop's address is found written on a note in his possession.

While Georgina is visiting Pup in hospital, Spica attacks the bookshop: after torturing his rival at length, he orders his gang to suffocate Michael to death by force-feeding him pages from his books. However, Spica soon finds himself running low on manpower as a result: half of his gang have left in disgust at the torture of Pup, and the other half leave after realizing that Spica has no intention of covering up Michael's death - despite the fact that such brazenness could bring the police down on their heads. Eventually, Spica finds himself alone except for his dimwitted right hand man, Mitchel.

Meanwhile, a devastated Georgina persuades Borst to cook Michael for her. At a private function booked at Le Hollandaise, Spica is unexpectedly confronted by everyone he has wronged over the course of the film, from the kitchen staff to the ex-members of his gang, and presented with a very special meal: Michael's corpse, specially-cooked and glazed for the wannabe-gourmand's consumption. Holding her husband at gunpoint, Georgina forces Spica to eat Michael as he promised; then, once he has managed to down his first mouthful (gagging as he does so), Georgina shoots him dead.

Personality

Violent, crude, racist, and immensely pretentious, Albert Spica likes to style himself as an artist and a gourmand, lecturing his supposedly lesser-educated thugs on the particulars of fine dining. In reality, he's a loud-mouthed thug with barely enough business sense to stop the restaurant from closing in the face of his constant antics; openly contemptuous of literature, he is quite proud of his ignorance and explodes at anyone attempting to explain the facts to him. For good measure, his claims of appreciating French cuisine are often undermined by the xenophobia he displays towards the kitchen staff, claiming to know more about proper food than they do and threatening to withdraw his support from the restaurant in the knowledge that Borst "a foreigner wouldn't last long around here."

Lacking any form of empathy for anyone at home or abroad, he happily assaults and tortures anyone who inconveniences him in any way without a hint of shame: at one point, he actually forces Pup to watch as he rapes Georgina. In keeping with his stunted sense of empathy, he shows little awareness of how much his gang have come to despise him by the end of the film, even after Harris tries to make him realize that his actions are becoming too hideous for even the corrupt local police to tolerate.

Ultimately, Spica's brash demeanor is dependent on his gang, and when he's finally deprived of Mitchel and his only sidearm, he's left cowering in the spotlight, for once left with nothing to say before Georgina blows his brains out.

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