Asa Butterfield in Peter Strickland Confection – The Hollywood Reporter
The Strange Cinematic Universe of Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy, Berber sound studio) extends a little bit wider with Gourmet Feedyet another of the cult British director’s wacky but sometimes moving, often funny, always visually sumptuous fantasies.
This one sounds more silly, more satirical than usual, referring to the mores of the art world, represented here by an “institute dedicated to culinary and food performance”, in other words shows where artists amplify the food sounds. cooking, projecting the camera stream of a live colonoscopy or smearing themselves with edibles, so many experiences that are more sonic than gastronomic for their audience. After the show, there are orgies.
Gassy but good.
Couture-clad institute director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie, her costumes designed by Giles Deacon with headgear by Stephen Jones) clashes with Elle di Elle (Strickland muse Fatma Mohamed), the de facto leader of a collective to whom Stevens bestowed a coveted residency award. Meanwhile, tensions between Elle and the two other members of the collective, played by Asa Butterfield (Sex education, Hugo) and Ariane Labed (both parts of Memory, Alps), threaten to implode the fragile peace of the residence.
It is not difficult to see in the whole configuration a palimpsest of artistic patronage here on earth, not only in the more rarefied realm of galleries and universities, but also in the gravelly chasm of film funding, with the imperious benefactor of Christie in place of the creation of film producers. (Perhaps it should be noted that neither the BBC nor the BFI, who backed the latter, Fabricare listed in the credits this time around.)
Plus, the ‘dietary differences’ talk that threatens the harmony of the collective – which still has no name because they can’t agree on just one, and the only ideas the lead singer like She can offer are variations on the construct “She and the…” — has obvious parallels in the music scene. Given that Strickland’s former beat combo The Sonic Catering Band contributes the music to the score here, he probably has an idea of what the backstage feuds between the band members might look like, as he also quotes It’s Spinal Tap in press notes as an influence, as well as the use of voiceover by Robert Bresson, the Viennese Actionists and the mime Marcel Marceau.
The above might suggest that the entanglement of pretension and manipulation of power is the main ingredient of Flux‘s feast, but this satirical quality does not entirely dominate. The Greek voiceover delivered by Stones (Makis Papadimitriou, Sun tanning), the institute’s “dossier” (much like an embedded journalist), is steeped in pain, shame and embarrassment – and not the funny kind. Suffering from severe stomach discomfort that results in constant nocturnal flatulence (mentioned but thankfully not heard), Stones endures anxiety as he tries to hide his stomach issues (not surprising considering the revolting appearance of the Eastern Bloc jelly food buffets). His condition is treated with empathy – especially since he’s one of the few characters here who could be described, if this were sort of a “normal” movie, as likable.
Fans of Strickland’s work do not come to his films expecting likable characters, although some of them do gain some kind of empathy from the audience (see, for example, sound engineer terrified of Toby Jones in Berberian or the enduring dominatrix of Sidse Babett Knudsen in duke). But perverted, horny, grotesque, obsessive, meticulous, cruel – it’s all good.
And no one exemplifies that better here than the two main antagonists, Mohamed’s Elle and Christie’s Jan. has a carnal magnetism everywhere. Christie, on the other hand, nails the icy coldness of a high-profile arts administrator, all murderous self-interest beneath a thin veneer of banter and red satin. His dialogue isn’t as funny as his turn Fabricbut even the way she answers every phone call with a singsong recitation of her own name is somehow, in Christie’s comedic good timing, downright hilarious.
As band members Billy Rubin and Lamina Propria, Butterfield and Labed, respectively, have less to do. His hair piled high and pushed forward in an 80s tuft and rocking the denim double look, Butterfield plays more than his usual shy strangers as Billy lazily offers himself as an object of lust for the film’s most rapacious women. . Sleek as usual, Labed brings a touch of tragedy to her bitter Lamina, a character who looks a bit like one of those overlooked but very capable bass players in a band, keeping the rhythm section tight but with little reward for his efforts and no share of the publishing revenue. Rounding out the set are solid turns from returning players Richard Bremmer as the evil doctor and Leo Bill as the deliciously named technical assistant Wim, complete with mullet.
Perhaps that’s a sign that this is one of Strickland’s weaker works when you’re reduced to finding fun in wigs. It should be noted that sometimes it looks like weirdness for weirdness. Nonetheless, Strickland constructs its own worlds with such distinctive style – down to the typefaces, bilious shades of green, and textures of the silks – that the viewer can’t help but feel drawn into its crazed maelstrom of weirdness.