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First Look Review - FLUX GOURMET

flux gourmet review
An art collective spends a month long residency at an exclusive institute.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Peter Strickland

Starring: Fatma Mohamed, Asa Butterfield, Makis Papadimitrou, Gwendoline Christie, Ariane Labed, Richard Bremmer

flux gourmet poster

Romanian actress Fatma Mohamed has long been director Peter Strickland's secret weapon, stealing the show in small supporting roles in his previous films with her unique presence, a curious mix of Prunella Scales and Delphine Seyrig. In his latest work, Flux Gourmet, Strickland deploys Mohamed like napalm, putting her front and centre in his most absurdist film to date.

flux gourmet review

Mohamed plays Elle, the pretentious frontwoman for an art collective she has temporarily dubbed "Elle and the Gastric Ulcers." Along with fellow members Billy (Asa Butterfield) and Lamina (Ariane Labed), Elle specialises in a decidedly niche form of performance art known as sonic catering, which involves creating noise through the use of food (a callback to fruit and veg standing in for violated body parts in Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio). Of course, like his previous movies, Flux Gourmet plays out in "Strickland" rather than the real world, and so here it's not a niche practice at all. In fact, so popular is sonic catering that there's a prestigious institute that awards collectives with month long residencies.


Elle and co. find themselves gifted one such residency, but Elle immediately makes an enemy of the institute's director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie). The two bicker constantly over the use of a flanger in Elle's work, with Elle digging her heels in while Jan seduces Billy in the hopes he might twist her arm. Meanwhile the antics are being documented by Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), a self professed hack writer from Greece. Stones suffers from chronic flatulence, and the institute's resident quack doctor Glock (Richard Bremmer) delights in taunting the writer as to the ambiguous nature of his condition.

flux gourmet review

In his early films, Strickland displayed an obsession with the aesthetics of 1970s European arthouse and grindhouse cinema, but his more recent work has seen him inject a very British sense of humour into the mix. Like In Fabric, Flux Gourmet delves into that very British neurosis regarding comforming to social norms, as represented by Stones' attempts to conceal his embarrassing condition and Jan's Basil Fawlty-esque desire to maintain her institute's reputation. The clash between European and British sensibilities is made literal here with Elle representing the former and Jan the latter. Perhaps the most British character is Billy, who just wants to keep his head down and avoid confrontation, happiest when buried in an audio equipment catalogue. If In Fabric was Argento's Are You Being Served?, Flux Gourmet is Bunuel's Fawlty Towers.


The absurdism is dialed up to 11, and I use that particular reference because Flux Gourmet often resembles a European cousin of Spinal Tap, its art collective every bit as laughably pretentious as the British rockers of Rob Reiner's seminal comedy. The terrorist attacks played out by a rival collective shunned by the institute are a direct nod to Bunuel, as are the dinner table conversations where hot button issues are discussed in the most risible manner. As is often suspected of the world of impenetrable art, it all ultimately seems to be an excuse to get laid, with the collective awarded with nightly orgies courtesy of adoring audiences. Strickland is a master of stretching out a gag to the point where it becomes so absurd that the absurdism fuels the comedy. The battle over the flanger and Glock's refusal to give Stones a straight answer regarding his windy woes are both masterclasses in this brand of comedy.

flux gourmet review

Acknowledging the influence of the Greek Weird Wave movement through the casting of Suntan's Papadimitriou and Attenberg's Labed, Strickland has assembled a knockout cast of current European cult faves, all of whom are fully in sync with his unique brand of filmmaking. It's Mohamed however who stands out as always. Is there a more entertaining comic performer working today? She simply has to appear on screen to make you start giggling, and her delivery of Strickland's dialogue is like nothing else in modern cinema. As a very pretentious woman who has no idea how pretentious she really is, Mohamed sends up this archetype in riotous fashion. I'm baffled as to how she hasn't gotten more work on the strength of her previous collaborations with Strickland, but perhaps he's the only filmmaker who understands her distinctive talents. That said, if she continues to work almost exclusively with Strickland she'll likely end her career with a more impressive CV than most performers. I can't wait to see what this pair brings us next.

Flux Gourmet
 is in US cinemas/VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.



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