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Culinary Delights: Flux Gourmet

Filmmaker and ASFF 2021 guest speaker Peter Strickland has crafted a unique niche in British cinema. His 2009 debut Katalin Varga introduced the director as a purveyor of the wild and weird, and his latest esoteric tale, which received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier this week, continues the trend.

Flux Gourmet was shot in a rambling country house just outside of ASFF’s home city of York and is partly inspired by Strickland’s own musical ventures in the 1990s. His group, The Sonic Catering Band, swapped instruments for the sounds of the kitchen, recording bubbling pots of food. In the film, we find a similar culinary collective in the home of an eccentric patron, Jan Stevens (Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie, who previously featured in Strickland’s 2018 film In Fabric). Amongst the gang, who seem to spend most of their time squabbling, are the young Billy (Sex Education’s Asa Butterfield) and the forthright Elle (Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed). There’s further upset when the shy Stones (Makis Papadimitriou) arrives to document their work and a rival crew attempt to destabilise events.

Things get worse for Stones as an increasingly problematic gastrointestinal issue is made worse by the fact he’s sharing a dorm room with the others. But that doesn’t stop the group using his ailment. As the film unfolds, Strickland smartly examines the line where art meets exploitation and explores the idea of the body as a canvas for expression.

Ever the cineaste, Strickland also draws on European arthouse films from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Nods to cinematic greats, including Georges Franju’s Judex (1963) and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, are sprinkled throughout, and even Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss (1982) provides inspiration for the fabulous diva-ish costumes worn by Christie. It all makes for a hugely idiosyncratic experience, one that builds to a twisted – and very scatological – crescendo, recalling Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989). Flux Gourmet is full of dark humour but is still an exquisite and rarefied dish.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from 12-20 August. Flux Gourmet is in cinemas from 30 September.

Words: James Mottram