An avant garde troupe is in residence at a manor house producing soundscapes from a mixture of blenders, knives and miked up bowls of fruit. A gurning octogenarian GP projects a live endoscopy onto a gallery wall for a crowd of chin-stroking enthusiasts. Meanwhile, a group of art terrorists creep around the perimeter under cover of dark and hurl terrapins through sash windows.
This could quite easily read like a series of entries in someone’s dream (or nightmare) diary, especially one following a particularly fever-inducing cheese platter. Or it could just as easily be the latest film from lover of impeccably furnished surrealness, director Peter Strickland: Flux Gourmet.
Strickland has made something of a name for himself in the past ten years, pushing somewhere at the limits of the bizarre and confounding, but with a keenly observed eye for detail and, crucially, always played with a completely straight face, no matter how off-the-wall the circumstances presented.
Berberian Sound Studio (2012) was like a love letter to the splatter-gore Italian giallo horror movies of the seventies, featuring an increasingly bewildered Toby Jones trapped within the labyrinth of an actual giallo horror studio.
His next film (and for my money his masterpiece) was The Duke of Burgundy (2014), which again mined a specifically seventies aesthetic for its look (this time tie-and-tease erotica). Strickland struck the balance just right here between wry humour, poignancy, charged eroticism, and visuals so sumptuous the whole film could be uncorked and poured into a brandy balloon.
Strickland returned to absurdist horror with his follow-up, In Fabric (2018), essentially about the Reading branch of House of Fraser falling into the hands of a satanic coven. (The joker in the pack is his debut feature, Katalin Varga (2009), a straightforward revenge thriller filmed in Europe on a micro-budget. It contains none of the eccentricities of his later films.)
In many ways he ups the ante for his latest film, Flux Gourmet. I could go into the details of the plot, although that may be entirely redundant, I’m not sure. I get the feeling that Strickland would prefer for the whole thing to be thought of as consumed than just watched, rather like the poor saps within the art installations who are made to digest their gross concoctions. As always, the audio is just as rich in detail as the visuals, ranging from the barely audible to the ear-scouring. (The actual soundtrack to the unholy mess of each banquet is supplied by Cavern of Anti-Matter.)
I think it’s best to say that, if you’re game, then so is Strickland and there is no real alternative than to just go ahead and dive right in. Although I personally would check the ingredients before you swallow anything down…
Flux Gourmet is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 28th October – Wednesday 2nd November.
This is a MUBI GO film
Every week MUBI selects a brand new film that can be seen for free in cinemas – and if that film is playing with us, you can see it for free at Plymouth Arts Cinema. All with a MUBI GO subscription.
Reviewed By Ieuan Jones