Flux Gourmet is a 2022 surrealist horror drama and the sixth feature-length film written and directed by Peter Strickland. Staring in order of importance to the plot Makis Papadimitriou, Fatma Mohamed, Gwendoline Christie of Sherlock fame, Asa Butterfield (who I will refer to as Butters henceforth), Ariane Labed, and Richard Bremmer. If I may be reductive and allow the reader to tap out in the first paragraph and determine if this film is worth a watch or this worth a read; this movie is a near two-hour fart joke with the pomposity of a Lars von Trier flick… and might just be the joke.
Visually, Flux Gourmet is stunning. Props to the cinematographer Tim Sidell and editor Matyas Fekete, you’re seen and I like your work. The acting is stilted though I refrain from blaming any of the actors; they emoted and played their roles well. The issue I feel is rooted in the foundation of the film, the writing and directing. It is not bad, nor is it overtly complex to grasp (and I’m an idiot so that’s telling you something). Maybe the overtly serious tone was intended to be the joke but it came off as a hodgepodge of ideas sprouted from watching the work of more accomplished filmmakers, and that is not a slight to Strickland. Homage and imitation are sometimes hard to differentiate. At points it looks a little Wes Anderson, a touch Gus Van Sant, a smidgen Tarkovsky and a sprinkle of Goddard. As nicely as I can put it, this it reeks of third year film student. And that’s ok.
A brief overview of the plot. Stone our MC, played by Makis, is a documentarian who is so disillusioned with his medium that he refers to himself as a ‘hack’. Stone is hired to document a group culinarily based performance artists during their residency at an institute managed by Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie) as the trio prefect their performance Stone begins to lose his objectivity and become more and more an intricate part of their shows as his bowels become more irritable. The band consists of Elle di Elle (Fatma), Billy Rubin (Butters) and Lamina Propria (Labded). During the residency tensions between artists rise as well as their relationship with their patron. All in the institute are harassed by rejected culinary artists known as the Mongrove Snacks. A pompous gastroenterologist, Dr. Glock played by Bremmer, who I can only assume is Stricklands representation of Classical Patriarchal Eurocentric elitism; he’s a frail old man more caught up in his convictions and teachings than the lives and work of those around him. Dr. Glock seemingly only speaks in condescending tone towards Elle only to act as an antagonist to her and waxes poetically as an affront to our main Stone, chiding him for not being familiar with classical Greek writers and taking jabs at his gastrointestinal distress. All this resulting in power plays, conspiracy, sexual bribery, and a lot of IBS talk.
Where did the writing first showed its sophomoric nature? I would say that was in the character names; Elle di Elle which literally translates to she of she and her characterization is an opinionate feminist stereotype, look I agree with the sentiments she espouses for the most part but her hyper aggression towards her co-performer Billy Rubin for the sin of upstaging her by telling a personal story about a woman he found attractive is distasteful, it makes her flat as a character. No offense to Fatma she did her job well, Elle came off as a bitch. While we’re on the subject of Billy, his last name Ruben means ‘behold my son,’, the entirety of the name is to make this insecure guy seem more childlike which may go hand-in-hand with his impetuous nature, attraction to older women, and lack of table manners. Oh, yeah his lack of table manners is kind of a plot point.
Lamina Propria, or with a slight rearranging of the first name L’anima Propria- the soul own(er). Lamina is revealed to be Elle’s former lover, though all three do frequently engage in orgies together, Lamina attributes their breakup to her hostility and obsessive drive to see her specific vision realized. Dare I say their breakup explains Elle’s lack of soul. Stevens I actually had to look up, it’s apparently Norman in origin meaning ‘crown’ which makes sense, being the financier who is attempting to use her wealth and influence to take over the project.
Stone is a relatable character. A frustrated creative who feels as though he serves better as on the technical side of the field do to his own resentment of her work which is exasperated by the antagonistic nature of Dr. Glock. Scared and embarrassed about his stomach issues, and constantly in a fight between wanting to know what’s wrong and fearing the worst. He begins to see merit in his malady when Elle starts to incorporate him into her shows, feeling better knowing he is apart of something greater. Only following through with testing when part of a performance, he claims it persuasion but he acknowledges there is vanity involved.
The entirety of Flux Gourmet feels as though it’s trying to meet some indi-flick check list. There is frequent narration in different languages, even though all characters speak a common tongue (English), that seem only to exist in order to get subtitles on the screen. A torrid love affair between Billy and Jan because he has a mom fetish. Voyeurism by stone. Performance art with human waste (that is revealed to be chocolate mousse). Murder. Cannibalism. Random shots of signs in b roll between scenes. Implying the entire movie was the performance. It’s all… cliché, nothing surprised me, only bored or frustrated me. But I must say, it is all shot very well.
Flux Gourmet is a discourse on the cathartic resolution of art, yet it refuses to give one. At the end Elle is shot by the Mongrove Snacks and cooked as her final performance is shown as a member in the audience, safe and sound, casting doubt on the in-universe sincerity of the entire movie. Stone intestinal issue is diagnosed as Celiac Disease, he just has to avoid gluten and he should be fine.
My final thoughts. It’s a midrange movie, carried heavily by the visuals. The characters are bland; situations not all that original; suffers from being a try-hard and even then, I could break down the naming convention within twenty minutes. I came into writing this review thinking that the seriousness that the film carries throughout was the punchline but as I look back, I’m reminded of a John Waters quote, “I made a movie. It’s just a movie. Go and laugh at it,” and I feel as though if I were to laugh at (not with) Flux Gourmet Strickland would not appreciate. If you want to kill a couple hours and put this on then I can’t blame you, it has somethings going for it, but if you want an experience, one that I think this movie was trying to evoke even emulate, then watch Man Bites Dog, The Lobster, The Light House, adultswims The Yule Log, or The Holy Mountain or don’t, it’s your life.