Flux Gourmet (2022)
Director: Peter Strickland
Screenwriter: Peter Strickland
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Gwendoline Christie, Ariane Labed, Fatma Mohamed, Makis Papadimitriou
Peter Strickland, the infamous director behind some of the weirdest films you’ve never seen, follows his giallo-inspired horror film In Fabric (in which a haunted red dress torments its various owners) with his latest sure-to-be-divisive offering Flux Gourmet.
Flux Gourmet, which debuted at Edinburgh International Film Festival this week, follows a group of experimental performance artists known for their process of “sonic catering” (where they extract disturbing sounds from various foods). They take up residency at a remote artistic institution with the intention to create fascinating art whilst allowing a journalist with flatulence problems to follow them for the length of the residency before publishing writings on their stay.
Similarly to In Fabric, Strickland certainly knows how to make a beautiful looking movie. The director remains heavily inspired by giallo horror, even in this dark comedy, and as such there is plenty use of bright, primary colours and some lovely looking locations – the lighting and camera work throughout Flux Gourmet are magnificent.
Sadly, the visuals mean nothing when the picture itself is lousy, and boy is Flux Gourmet lousy.
With In Fabric, Strickland created a wonderful story in which the eccentricity of the world never felt out of place. The big issue was how the film felt like it had come to a natural conclusion before the second half even started. Furthermore, this second half was a complete repeat of the first half but with different characters. This repetitiveness is evident once again in Flux Gourmet.
The screenplay is structured in three acts: week one, week two, and week three. With each new week a new member of the band is interviewed by journalist Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), yet structurally there is little difference between the three weeks; interview with band mate, after dinner meal, the director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie) gives the band constructive criticism, performance, orgy. Over and over and over again.
The structure, as much of an issue as it may be, could be used to focus on each band member in their individual week, but it isn’t. Instead, the film heavily focuses on band leader Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed) in week one and week two, band member Billy Rubin and Jan Stevens in week two and three (Asa Butterfield), and Stones over all 3. The third and final band member Lamina Propria (Ariane Labed) is simply never given much focus. Around ten minutes into the film there is a scene in which Lamina spends time alone with Stones and it seems as though it could lead to its own story, but nothing else comes of it.
Worse still, these are some most of the most insufferable characters ever put to screen. Far and away the worst offender is Elle di Elle, a hot-headed, stubborn, pretentious artist who refuses to take criticism or feedback and assumes she knows everything.
Perhaps the greatest sin of Flux Gourmet, however, is its satire. The movie follows a “sonic catering” band whose genre of music/art could be described as noise music (a genre of music that the Antonio Banderas-led Official Competition also made fun of at this year’s EIFF). The film clearly satirises the genre, the bands, it’s followers etc., by truly turning the pretentiousness up to eleven. This is satirised by the band’s over the top stage shows and the fact that they can’t differentiate half the sounds they are making (a joke which is certainly overplayed).
Flux Gourmet is also filled to the brim with the lowest of low brow comedy. Making use of Stones’ flatulence problems to create such hilarious situations as trying to hold in a fart during an after dinner speech is a prime example. Gosh, how brilliant.
Although the pretentious side of the film may seem rather detached from its low brow comedy stylings, Strickland bridges the gap with a voice over. Stones, speaking in his native tongue (something he doesn’t do outside of the narration) about his issues with gas, creates what could only be described as an ill-informed spoof of international cinema.
The bridging of the gap between the two is clearly a commentary on how the low brow and the high brow are really two sides of the same coin. The problem with this is that you get the worst of each side in Flux Gourmet – mixing two ugly colours together doesn’t make high art.
Filled with terribly annoying characters, a script that thinks it is much more clever than it really is, and a repetitive structure that makes this less-than two hour movie feel like an epic on the same scale as Lawrence of Arabia, Flux Gourmet really isn’t very good. Steer clear.