de facto film reviews 3 stars

If the name of Peter Strickland wasn’t credited to Flux Gourmet, this dark comedy with some horror tropes would probably be mistaken as an imitation of Italian Giallo, Daro Argento, or even Mario Bavo. The effect and tonal overlap of these styles are certainly there, and Strickland’s latest carries on the Giallo spirit that is apparent in his earlier work like Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgandy, and In Fabric. While marketed as a horror film, the film is more substantial as a dark satire. The bizarre and eccentric style of the characters feels like Strickland’s most offbeat film yet; it echoes elements of a Wes Anderson or Yorgos Lanthimos film. Breakout beyond art-house horror fans will probably be doubtful, but a growing audience could possibly emerge in the years to come.

Part of the IFC Midnight special, this film is not without wry dark humor and moments of shock, but horror fans looking for a body count or slasher giallo like Argento’s The Deep Red, Suspiria, or Tenebre will be disappointed. Strickland’s film’s most unique quality is that it carries on his distinctive style, where he blends a very original concept with his idiosyncratic approach. The film examines offbeat personalities in the art world and how egos collide and rival each other (much like IFC’s recently released film, Official Selection). Strickland adds some fresh and uncomfortable ideas to his themes. He also adds a queasier and visceral reaction who will experience the film.

Flux Gourmet (2022) - IMDb

Like his previous work, Flux Gourmet holds the same aesthetics that are in the vein of Italian Giallo. The film similarly adopts the unembellished visual style with striking compositions, stylish camera work (courtesy of director of photography Tim Sidell), and sharp lighting, colors, and decor. The film also offers its share of offbeat characters and, like Berberian Sound Studio, Strickland is drawn into sounds, and this time around, while the film is about a group of performance artists who perform to the sounds of food as it’s prepared (that’s a made up art form in the film as “sonic catering”), what could be sold as a film about culinary arts and a bizarre preparation of food ends up becoming more about the sound of food.

An arts enthusiast named Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christine) runs an estate run by a private arts foundation that has a very strict selection process of housing gifted artists for their talents over the course of a few weeks. This time, she chooses a group of performance artists who prepare and record food in an art form known as “culinary collective,” which is led by Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed), and her collaborators include a sound recordist, Billy Rubin (Asa Butterfield), and co-performer, Lamina Propia (Ariane Labed). The crew also invites in a writer named Stones (Makis Papadimitriou) as part of their experiment. Stones is very insecure, proclaims himself as a hack, and actually has a bad case of indigestion and flatulence, and this is the first film I ever saw that breaks the tabu of breaking wind by showing the serious side effects of it that are often executed for comedic relief in movies.

Image gallery for Flux Gourmet - FilmAffinity

Strickland, like Official Competition (now showing), highlights the absurdity of the art world. Tensions and creative disagreements eventually arise between Elle and Jan, in which Jan believes Ele should tone down her weaponized feminism within her art, causing a rift between them which leads to sabotage on Jan’s part, and the estate begins to spiral into chaos as tensions arise. Meanwhile, a romance ends up brewing between Jan and Billy, which ends up causing greater tension with their group. Strickland is having a field day with his diabolical humor as tensions arise with the group, especially when they can’t quite satisfy Jan’s expectations. Elle finds Jan’s dissatisfaction and high standards a clash with her vision. Meanwhile, the estate is often under threat by other artists who were rejected from Jan’s program. They frequently write death threats, harass Lamone by phone, and even shoot rocks and bullets through the dining room windows, with one of the rocks landing in a bowl of tomato soup and covering her in red, as if she had just experienced a blood bath.

As the narrative progresses, Stones’ narration and observations bring a somber tone as he reflects on his experiences. Eventually, his bowls get worse. After being up all night after being prescribed for laxatives by Dr. Glock, Stones ends up being a subject for their performance after he finds out his feces is possibly being collected for a performance. He also ends up getting a live colonoscopy by Glock with Elle and her group as part of a performance. Yes, Elle leads her performances to extreme heights, all to satisfy Elle and her fellow enthusiasts. All the bitterness and animosity begin to fade as Elle’s performances become more in control and expressive. Each of the characters in the film brings a memorable, eccentric presence, and the rivalry between Jan and Elle is very well-developed, but Stones’ character feels a little underdeveloped, and a few more scenes with him and Lamina could have probably brought more life to his character.

Berberian Sound Studio Director's Flux Gourmet Looks Bonkers [Trailer]

Outside of the absurdity, the rich satire, dark humor, and bizarreness of the film, it’s quite perplexing how deep Strickland is really going here. There are certainly some grotesque and unpleasant moments in the film, but Flux Gourmet should be embraced for its daring framework and creative approach. This is certainly one of the year’s most original and unforgettable films that takes the Italian Giallo genre and style and rather subverts it to some new and unusual heights. Strickland has proven over and over again that he’s a stylized filmmaker with a singular style and vision, and his new film proves horror filmmaking can still be absurdist, darkly funny, and strange. It truly provides 109 minutes of mischievous entertainment. Who knew intestinal gas could be so cautionary and used in an Italian Giallo inspired film? Flux Gourmet is a dark comedy with some horror elements done right.