Tag Archives: Fatma Mohamed

Plot Plop Fizz Fizz

Flux Gourmet

by Hope Madden

There is something so delightfully confounding about trying to review a Peter Strickland film. Even summarizing the plot is a walk into absurdity. For example, Strickland’s latest, Flux Gourmet, takes us inside a culinary collective institute. Here, sonic caterers and a man documenting them struggle with artistic authenticity.

What are sonic caterers, you ask? Maybe you didn’t, but I did. They are sort of performance artists whose medium is food.

Elle (Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed), Lamina (Ariane Labed, The Lobster, The Souvenir) and Billy (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) are the collective who’ve earned this year’s residency. Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie) oversees the institute. Stones (Makis Papadimitriou) documents.

Stones also narrates the film, and while his voiceover does help to articulate the plot of the film, his main focus is his own humiliating and painful flatulence problem.

The film often plays a bit like Strickland’s 2012 treasure Berberian Sound Studio, where an amiable outsider — a normal, nice guy — finds himself trapped with hedonistic, narcissistic artist types. Can he escape with his goodness intact?

Both films fixate on sound design, but Flux Gourmet settles into lighter, more clearly comic territory. And, at the risk of trying to read too much into Strickland’s absurdities, the film seems to say a lot about filmmaking as art versus commerce—the vulgar act of consuming and producing.

Which brings us back to poor Stones. Papadimitriou’s sympathetic performance delivers a nicely human counterpoint to the narcissistic, shallow characters that surround him. Christie, lavishly costumed and made up, is especially entertaining. Her patronizing sparks with Mohamed’s dictatorial Elle create absurd comic gold, only outdone by the self-impressed in-house medic, Dr. Glock (Richard Bremmer).

Strickland’s carved himself a recognizable niche in modern absurdist filmmaking with his precise, eclectic visual instincts. Funnier than Yorgos Lanthimos, more biting than Quentin Dupieux, more accessible than Leos Carax, Strickland wallows in his own very specific preoccupations. But he does so with such panache that it’s tough not to let him convert you.

This story feels somewhat slight compared to the complicated plotlines of Strickland’s earlier films, especially his 2018 horror treasure In Fabric. But Flux Gourmet is the filmmaker’s funniest feature.

Lady in Red

In Fabric

by Hope Madden

My last note after watching In Fabric: “Well, that was weird.”

Weird in a good way.

Nobody blends giallo’s surrealistic seduction with dry British wit (two elements that, to be honest, should not fit together at all) like Peter Strickland. Subversive and playful while boasting a meticulous obsession with the exploitation films of the Seventies, Strickland creates vintage-futuristic fantasies that live outside of time and evoke both nostalgia and wonder.

His latest follows a red Ambassadorial Function Dress and the havoc it wreaks on its wearers.

This sounds like Yong-gyun Kim’s 2005 Japanese horror The Red Shoes, but Strickland has something far less sensible, less predictable, and more memorable in store for you.  (Quick PSA: If you can be less sensible than a Japanese ghost story horror and still make a watchable, even fascinating, film, you are at the top of your game.)

We meet Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), lonely fiftysomething bank teller just finding her way back into the dating pool and in need of a new dress. She heads, during sales season, to Dentley & Soper, where a coven of sales women led by Strickland favorite Fatma Mohamed (she owns this movie) will do what they can to usher clients toward a “transaction of ecstasy.”

The dress, a “a double dream, diamond wrapped,” says the catalog, is “body sensual, captivating, candlelight glances, canape conversations.”

This heightened perfume-ad speak also spills from the department store sales women—each a cross between a Victorian witch and a mannequin—hinting at the fetishistic nature of the entire film.

Strickland, apparently, is about as fond of consumerism as Romero or Cronenberg. He’s also as fond of the color red as Argento. Unlike the giallo films that clearly inform Strickland’s aesthetic, here commerce, not violence itself, is the seductive, sexualized element.

Sheila is a good egg waiting to crack played with working class grace by Jean-Baptiste (Secrets and Lies). In the tradition of the genre, we root that good egg Sheila will somehow outwit the killer dress her saleswitch conned her into purchasing.

Sheila’s story represents the first half of In Fabric, a peculiar but somewhat straightforward horror film. At the film’s halfway mark, Strickland makes a quick left turn into full blown absurdity, which awaits you in the second half.

Not a frame, not a glance, not a bizarre line of dialog is wasted or misplaced in a bold vision that’s stylized nearly to death. In a good way. Strickland’s audacious anti-consumerism fantasy must be seen to be believed.