By Monica Delgado
Peter Strickland’s fifth feature film is a satire on the world of artists in residence. Following the style of The Duke of Burgundy (2014), his episode in The Field Guide To Evil (2018) or In Fabric (2018), in Flux Gourmet (2022) exposes a fabled setting, with delicate, glamorous characters, but who they never cease to be bizarre or grandiloquent, to tell a story about impact performances.
This new feature film is the filmmaker’s most “strident” film, to the extent that it is a work, as in Berberian Sound Studio (2012), where editing and sound design play a predominant role. An upper class patron (Gwendoline Christie) invites a group of sound artists, Elle (Fatma Mohamed), Lamina (Ariane Labed) and Billy (Asa Butterfield) to her mansion, a culinary research institute, while in the place a journalist also receives treatment for stomach ailments. On the one hand, the tone of eschatological humor appears, but also the tint of an aesthetic comedy, formed by series or repetitions of some situations, which refer to a choreographic intention. The characters become pieces of a theatrical performance of more than an hour and a half, where quotes from the Peter Greenaway-style staging (and here I think it is not healthy to resort to this reference) are gaining ground.
Although Flux Gourmet is perceived as a minor film compared to other works by Peter Strickland, its value lies above all in the sound plane and how it uses this resource to strengthen its satire of this world of art, spectators and speculations or concepts. validated as artistic. The noisy experimentation soundtrack that contains compositions or improvisations by The Sonic Catering Band (with themes by Strickland himself) contributes to building this surreal and bizarre dimension of the performances. And also in the visual finish, which allows a rarefied and timeless atmosphere, also supported in the romantic climate of an isolated mansion in the middle of the forest.
And the title, which could refer to the Fluxus concerts, is also valued as a reference to the use of the acoustic and the everyday as a way of liberating the sensitive. The relationship between art and life (here explored from the power of the culinary, the tasting and from the pleasure or repellency from the smell) captured from the grotesque and from the irony of a state of art. For this reason, despite the sensation of being in front of a medium-sized film, all the expressive sound commitment makes Flux Gourmet a rarity, and perhaps a future cult film.
Direction and screenplay: Peter Strickland
Cinematography: Tim Sidell
Editing: Matyas Fekete
Sound design: Tim Harrison
Sound: Cassandra Rutledge
UK, Hungary, USA, 2022, 111 min