The new film by writer and director Peter Strickland Gourmet Flux It might be his weirdest movie to date, and that says something to the director behind films like Studio Berberian SoundAnd the Duke of BurgundyAnd the in the fabric. How to follow a movie about a dress possessed by a murderer? With a movie about a world where “culinary groups” are the equivalent of rock stars, they make music out of food preparation.
Strickland is known as an arthouse horror director, but Gourmet Flux Not really described as horror, with no lethal force for Studio Berberian Sound or in the fabric. It is closer to Duke of Burgundy, another story about the strange fetish obsession. In both films, sexual and artistic interests are intertwined, and the characters often cross personal boundaries. Like other Strickland films, Gourmet Flux It is set in what appears to be an alternate universe or time period that is not specifically specified. It takes place entirely on the grounds of the Sonic Catering Institute, an art haven run by patron Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie).
Jan is a benefactor of several culinary groups, which invites her to stay for a month at her institute. These groups combine cooking and music in a peculiar type of performance art that is the pinnacle of artistic expression in this world. Artists still need funding, and Gourmet Flux Often a parody of the art world, it strangely exaggerates the kind of interactions artists and financiers typically negotiate. The sparkly dressed Jean appears desperate to contribute to the world of sonic catering, but the newest group in residence has no interest in taking her own.
Leading the anonymous group is Elle di Elle (Fatima Muhammad), who exercises complete control over her bandmates Lamina Propria (Ariane Labed) and Billy Rubin (Asa Butterfield). She has a complex sexual and romantic history with both of them. Gourmet Flux It sometimes plays as a quirky version of a rock band autobiography, complete with behind the musicStyle interviews by Stones (Makis Papadimetriou), a writer assigned to chronicle each residence at the institute and narrate the film in Greek.
Most of the Stones’ accounts relate to his intestinal difficulties, a story that parallels the food-based group performances. As Stones consults with the condescending, corrupt Dr. Glock (Richard Bremer), his medical exams also become a show. Strickland has always brought good humor to his scariest acts, but Gourmet Flux He fully embraces absurdity with Stones’ recurring rhetoric about flatulence, causing him major emotional shock while being utterly ridiculous.
The seriousness with which the characters discuss fart reflects the seriousness with which they discuss their art, and Gourmet Flux He finds both themes equally silly and impressive. Even when Strickland mocks artistic pretense, he treats his characters with respect and takes their emotional needs seriously. Gourmet Flux It does not fully achieve the graceful sensitivity given to the central relationship in Duke of BurgundyHowever, Strickland finds genuine pity in the unexpected romance between arrogant Jean and shy Billy.
With her imposing stature and amazing outfit, Kristi is a dominant presence in every scene she’s in, but doesn’t overpower the other characters, and Strickland devotes much time to all of their personal travels. In some ways, Papadimitriou is the opposite of Christie. He’s a nearly invisible presence in many scenes, but his narration makes the Stones into the hidden protagonist of Flux Gourmet. The film’s climax vent belongs to him rather than any of the glamorous characters.
The more horror-oriented Strickland films have a certain power that overpowers their sometimes senseless Impressionist plots, but Gourmet Flux It lacks that sense of urgency. Viewers who aren’t along the Strickland wave right away will likely find the movie frustrating and baffling, and even Strickland fans may be put off by some weird turns. Strickland’s biggest influences still exist Gialo Movies and other low-budget European films of the ’70s and ’80s, but after five films, he developed his own unique aesthetic, a kind of high-end niche erotica. Even when the characters stain themselves with what appears to be excrement, there is an appealing sensuality to Strickland’s visual style.
Sometimes all of that Gourmet Flux This visual style must continue, because the surreal narrative is full of inexplicable developments. There are strange sequences of Jean guiding the group through what looks like meditation or hypnosis simulating a trip to the grocery store, which exist almost as standalone episodes. A rival group continues to harass and attack the institute, whose motives and goals remain a mystery. There is a fixation on a piece of audio equipment called a flanger, which becomes a major point of contention between Jan and Elle. All this contributes to the overwhelming strangeness, and for viewers who can successfully position themselves in the world of Strickland, Gourmet Flux It is sure to be a unique and delicious experience.
Flux Gourmet opens Friday, June 24 in select theaters and in VOD.