A review of Peter Strickland’s Gourmet Flux

(left to right) Asa Butterfield as Billy Rubin, Fatma Mohamed as Elle Di Elle and Ariane Labed as Lamina Propria in Peter Strickland's Flux Gourmet.

(left to right) Asa Butterfield as Billy Rubin, Fatma Mohamed as Elle Di Elle and Ariane Labed as Lamina Propria in Peter Strickland Gourmet Flow.
Photograph: IFC midnight

People regularly use the word “surreal” simply to mean strange. But surrealism as an artistic movement is a specific quest for the unconscious; probing the irrationality of dreams to reveal a profound truth, often expressed through the juxtaposition of complex ideas, rarely grouped together. Doctor Strange’s interdimensional portals, for example, are strange but not surreal. Gourmet FlowThe Sonic Catering Institute at the Sonic Catering Institute, a rural mansion in God knows what time or place, functioning as an artists’ retreat for “cooking and food performances”, is surreal. The strange thing is how, after enough time, it starts to make sense.

This is Strickland’s fifth narrative feature, whose credits include Giallo’s entertaining thriller berber sound studio, and in Fabric, the episodic tale of a haunted red dress. His biggest achievement so far is the shocking but moving, elegant but filthy psychosexual drama. The Duke of Burgundy, a compassionate S&M lesbian romance from May to December, without an ounce of nudity but living room talk about “human toilets.” (You kind of have to see it to believe it.)

Gourmet FlowThe world of ‘s is similar to Burgundy in that it is also isolated from reality, and no one is kidding for a minute. But that doesn’t mean audiences without the right radio receiver won’t be laughing. This is, after all, a movie about a guy who spends much of his runtime worried that he’s about to rip a fart in high-end company.

The man with tummy troubles, Stones, is played by Greek actor Makis Papadimitriou, who somewhat resembles Berberit’s Toby Jones. He works as a “dossier”, or in-house diarist for events at the Sonic Catering Institute. That means peeking into the background and scribbling notes as this season’s resident artists prepare their latest pieces, interviewing them when they can. Because this is a surrealist film, he also shares a barracks with everyone (worrying when you have debilitating intestinal gas) and he’s also privy to post-show receptions, which are actually psychedelic orgies.

The visiting artists are a group of avant-garde musicians. No wait, they are chefs. Or performing artists? Well, a little bit of everything. Her work integrates sound and food – the whir of a spinning blender, the sizzle of a pan – with poetry, dance and evocative lighting. It starts out weird and just goes from there. Manifestos are read (a lot about sex and omelets) and there’s a lot about Patriarchy and how it relates to a hot meal.

This is a joke? No, absolutely not, but it’s hilarious. The group is led by Elle (Fatma Mohamed), a visionary, albeit rigid and somewhat indifferent. Two of her aides are Billy (Asa Butterfield) and Lamina (Ariane Labed), both former lovers who fiddle with buttons and bells and clean up extra virgin olive oil when it spills.

In charge of the installation is Jan Stevens (always called by her full name) an absurdly equipped Gwendoline Christie. She seems, one minute, to create a welcoming place for visiting artists, but will come up with creative tweaks the next. She is also dealing with a sour grape collective (The Mangrove Snacks!!) that has been denied residency and has led to acts of artistic terrorism. (They use dead turtles in their attacks, for some reason.) Also in the mix is ​​a tongue-clicking doctor (Richard Bremmer) reeking of British conservatism.

As Elle and Jan Stevens begin to clash (in particular, Jan Stevens recommends decreasing the use of a flanger) Elle’s cohorts begin to plan their exit from the collective. Our narrator Stones, however, continues to undergo tests from our grumpy doctor who, according to surrealist logic, becomes part of Elle’s art. Have you ever wanted to see a colonoscopy as if it were staged at the Donmar Warehouse? Now, finally, is your chance.

Gourmet Flow It’s a “not for everyone” kind of movie, but even people who don’t want to or can’t connect with it should recognize that it’s not just weird for the sake of weirdness. Aside from the obvious theme of the artist’s eternal struggle with those who offer sponsorship just to start shortening the leash, there is a candid view of how weird it’s for people to come together to make art in the first place. It’s hard enough for someone to create it on their own. Doing this as a collective is just begging for trouble. (Indeed, how many movie directors over the decades have raised their hands to ask “Whatwhy was I not an author or a painter?”)

Now imagine how difficult it is to create meaningful (and commercially viable) soundscapes from smeared chocolate frosting. This one Gourmet Flow ends up being such a rich text is really surreal.

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