With Flux Gourmet, auteur-of-the-offbeat Peter Strickland has delivered another compellingly strange blend of the hilarious and the horrifying – although labelling it either a horror or comedy feels almost too simplistic for the singular recipe the writer-director has concocted here.
With this fifth film, Strickland places us in an unnamed art institute where musical collectives are awarded month-long residencies for the purposes of ‘culinary performance’ using kitchen equipment. The collective we follow can never quite agree on a name but comprise Elle di Elle (Strickland ever-present Fatma Mohamed) as the de facto leader, alongside colleagues Lamina Propria (The Lobster’s Ariane Labed) and Billy Rubin (Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield).
When the bickering trio aren’t playing gigs using amplified egg whisks, food mixers and boiling saucepans they’re having post-gig orgies with fans and being documented by flatulent journalist Stones (Makis Papadimitriou) – all under the watchful eye of imperious institute director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie, back with Strickland after In Fabric). Stones narrates in Greek, focusing as much on his gastrointestinal issues as the band’s progress.
Peter Strickland is a huge Spinal Tap fan and there are one or two Stonehenge moments here
This is a particularly personal film for Strickland, who spent years in his own musical collective, The Sonic Catering Band, making sounds akin to the deliciously abstract noises in the film. The band reunited for the film and created about 90 percent of its soundscape, with the remainder made by sound designer Tim Harrison.
There’s similar care from the performances Strickland coaxes from his cast, with Christie and Mohamed especially good. The director is a huge fan of This is Spinal Tap and although Flux Gourmet isn’t up to the formidable standards of that masterpiece, it boasts one or two Stonehenge moments of its own. You might not expect furious arguments about a guitar pedal (a flanger, in fact), dinner-party speeches or a colonoscopy with an audience to be the stuff of hilarity. In Strickland’s hands, though, you should always expect the unexpected.
Flux Gourmet premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.