Queer director Peter Strickland’s movies are not so much an acquired taste as the luck of the draw. His rarified, mittleuropa tales, always based on some ultra-quirky idea, are typically set in some mysterious time and place and run a fine line between being captivating and boring (and sometimes, both at the same time).
His sophomore effort, The Duke of Burgundy”, a deliciously satisfying sadomasochistic lesbian love story set in the esoteric milieu of butterfly collecting – the duke of the title is a type of moth – remains his best, thanks in no small part to the committed performances of Sidse Babett Knudse and Chiara D’Anna. His other three movies, for me, at least, are disappointing and overrated.
Unfortunately, his new offering “Flux Gourmet” falls into the latter category.
Set in a remote artistic institution which is run by an enigmatic director (Gwendoline Christie) – never seen wearing the same outfit twice – the cooking of food is transformed into a performance art. Think Yoko Ono in the Dakota Building cooking dinner while John composes and takes photographs and maybe even does the dishes! However, the whole affair is so mannered that the entire cast seems to be doing their best Tilda Swinton imitation. It gets tiresome very quickly.
Only Greek actor Makis Papadimitriou, playing a blocked writer who has been hired to document the proceedings in both images and words, gains our sympathy. The poor guy has a bad case of acid reflux. His breath stinks and he has major bloating and flatulence. The latter is purposefully NOT used for an easy laugh, and we only get to hear a single small toot! Strickland has spoken about the numerous embarrassments that come hand-in-hand with an upset alimentary tract and it is admirable that Papadimitriou’s character is treated with sympathy and respect. However, although we cling to him for nourishment (sorry!) and we begrudgingly stay with him until the end of the movie, the elaborate performance pieces that he photographs, and documents become less and less interesting as the film proceeds to its less than inspired denouement.