Peter Strickland is a filmmaker of textures, training his camera like a microscope on the interwoven fibers of textiles (as in his haunted-dress horror story In Fabric) or the shimmery wings of butterflies (as in sapphic lepidopterology romance The Duke of Burgundy). His breakout feature Berberian Sound Studio looked at food in this same way, poring over the watermelons and cabbages mutilated in the course of foley effect recording; now, Strickland’s turning his attentions back to the gustatory.
This morning brings the first trailer for his latest film Flux Gourmet, its imagery fried until golden-brown and then slathered in a variety of gravies. We join a “culinary collective” making performance art from foodstuffs, their avant-garde take on music generated with sauces, vegetables, and cuts of meat in place of instruments.
The newcomer to this strange creative clique is Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), whose gastrointestinal unrest strikes the company’s stars — Billy Rubin (Asa Butterfield), Elle di Elle (Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed), and Lamina Propia (Ariane Labed) — as a potential gimmick for their act. While they pressure him into participating despite his misgivings about his weak stomach, tensions mount with the towering director Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie), who won’t let her authority be usurped by her underlings.
At this early stage, it’s unclear whether Strickland’s satirizing the art world, the culinary world, or anything at all — his work mixes arch humor with a sincere fascination for the outré, clear in the care with which he shoots his subjects. In claustrophobic close-up, a magenta-colored smoothie can look like the primordial ooze out of which humanity slithered, and a cranberry compote can turn into gore. He’s seemingly able to make anything look like anything.
The film’s premiere at the upcoming Berlinale will be something of a homecoming from Strickland, who opened his feature debut Katalin Varga in Competition there back in 2009. IFC has already scooped up distribution rights for the US, and sales for the UK are currently underway for what’s all but guaranteed to be one of this year’s genre highlights. Bon appetit!
Published 7 Feb 2022
A lowkey but interesting line-up comprises the selection for Berlinale’s 72nd edition.
By Lou Thomas
The cult British writer/director discusses his surreal sartorial horror yarn, In Fabric.