Signal Horizon

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{Overlook Film Festival} Flux Gourmet

Peter Strickland is a whole vibe. One of which I have a mixed relationship with. I loved the weirdness of Berberian Sound Stage but found In Fabric to be extremely slow which disappointed me as anthology movies (I understand it wasn’t really one but it definitely felt that way to me in the way the stories were told) and I typically get along. Enter Flux Gourmet, Strickland’s newest feature, that manages to situate itself right in between the other films. It is absolutely embraces its weirdness while feeling quite tight despite the talky nature of the film.

Flux Gourmet immediately dumps the audience into an alternate reality where musicians use different culinary techniques and ingredients to make music. These sonic caterers (that is the name given to them by the residents of the institute) are elevated to rock star status and the newest up and coming band has been invited to the institute where they become patrons of the director of the institute, Jan (Gwendoline Christie), and a select group of donors and elites. As the band experiments with their image, performance, and especially sound, the group has to reconcile its past grievances amidst the pressure the institute places on them to develop. Their days are routine despite the strange atmosphere. Throughout the movie Jan often leads them through a meditation that can only be described as performance art focuses on getting groceries at a supermarket. That makes it all sound so normal. This film is anything but that.

Gwendoline Christie’s performance as Jan manages to situate itself somewhere between President Snow of the Hunger Games and Tilda Swinton’s Mason from Snowpiercer (another film that feels like it could be an aesthetic cousin to this movie) It is intentionally clownish but with enough vulnerability that the audience never sees her as a true villain, merely another person of power who is not artistic trying to influence someone else’s creative process.

The allegory seems pretty clear when looking at how movies are made and how that process may seem burdensome to a director like Strickland who has such a unique filmic vision. The rest of the performances are solid with special note given to Makis Papadimitriou whose Stones looks as if he needs to fart every minute of the film (spoiler alert he does).

The action of Flux Gourmet mostly centers around the group’s various performances which includes providing the score to a colonoscopy performed in front of a live audience, and a performance capped off by eating a jar of human feces. Like I said, its a weird film. But one that often leads to endearing moments of sweetness that connect to real human emotions. In contemplating other films that use the same bizarre storytelling technique I was reminded of the Yorgos Lanthimos masterpiece The Lobster (its a masterpiece and I would be happy to fight anyone who thinks differently).

Both films manage to overcome their very strange settings and characters to tell stories about the human experience. If The Lobster focused on the relationships between human beings Flux Gourmet is more concerned about people and their relationships to the art they create and consume. Its almost like Peter Strickland thinks the process is farcical at best and garish at worst. I think he is probably not alone in that evaluation.

I caught Flux Gourmet as part of the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans. You can catch it in select theatres June 24th. Don’t let the longer runtime scare you off. It moves quick. Maybe eat after you see it though. There are some scenes that may not be for the squeamish. Bon appetit…or something.

Catch all of our Overlook coverage here.