Flux Gourmet


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Flux Gourmet
"Feels more like an amuse bouche than a full meal, while at the same time all proving a bit too much." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

Peter Strickland’s films have always been as much about mood as plot and perhaps never more so than with his latest. Set with in a culinary institute, it feels more like an amuse bouche than a full meal, while at the same time all proving a bit too much. When one of his lead characters says, “I just like to be in control”, it feels as though she could almost be speaking for the writer/director himself, who finely calibrates every aspect of this environment, from its colour palette and dead-pan humour down to its employment of foreign language and elaborate sound design.

After the everyday, albeit heightened, setting of department stores and washing machine repairs of his previous film In Fabric, this time Strickland’s satire takes pointed aim at the art world, and the interplay between funders and creators. Although the set-up seems deliberately far-fetched – an electro-music group whose performance art sound is generated by cooking – it is, presumably, at least partially rooted in Strickland’s own experience of, as the press notes inform us, “making culinary soundscapes with the Sonic Catering Band” (you can read more about/hear them here) and his interest interest in ASMR (a physical some people have to certain sounds).

Culinary star Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed, who always seems to be having a delicious time of any role) brings her acolytes-cum-bandmates Billy Rubin (Asa Butterflied) and Lamina Propria (Ariane Labed) to the institute for a three-month residency. Those names – the first a pun on LDL “bad” cholesterol, the second a play on the yellow pigment excreted by the liver and the last a mucosal membrane found in the small bowel – already indicate the level that a lot of this humour will be operating on, most simply labelled, Not For Everyone.

Ruling the institute roost is Jan Stevens (towering actress Gwendoline Christie, whose talent for comedy is also towering and who can currently be seen as Lucifer in The Sandman), whose arguments over the use of a flanger will provide one of the film’s running gags, which while it gets out of the starting blocks nicely, doesn’t quite go the distance. Leaving aside it’s closeness to a British sexual pun, “flanger” is exactly the sort of word that acquires a hook in a Strickland film, repeatedly arriving in conversations like a sort of archaic oddity, gaining humorous weight (if you like that sort of thing) each time it does. Also along for the ride is Stones (Suntan star Makis Papadimitriou), a self-confessed “hack”, who is supposed to be documenting the residency and who narrates this tale, via voiceover in Greek – for no other reason, one suspects, than Strickland likes the sound of it – in between articulating his own bodily battle with flatulence, the sound effects of which we are, thankfully, spared.

“Silence from an audience has always been my fear,” Elle notes, as her band’s art becomes increasingly provocative, internecine squabbles between the trio also becoming entangled with the wider competition control with Stevens. Strickland’s films, whatever else they may reference, always feel like a peculiar and singular vision and whatever reactions he might garner from an audience, silence is unlikely to be one of them but his latest won't be to everyone's taste.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2022
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Flux Gourmet packshot
A flatulence-plagued narrator guides us through the closed space of a manor house where an arts patron and director of the Sonic Catering Institute uses various forms of manipulation in order to get a trio of performance artists to provide ever better results.
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Director: Peter Strickland

Writer: Peter Strickland

Starring: Leo Bill, Richard Bremmer, Asa Butterfield, Gwendoline Christie, Ariane Labed, Fatma Mohamed, Makis Papadimitriou, Parvinder Kaur

Year: 2022

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: UK, US, Hungary


Karlovy 2022
EIFF 2022

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