An incredulous smile fixes on your face while watching the wonderfully weird Flux Gourmet, a reaction that may lead to any mixed-up feelings becoming pleasurable ones. Am I really seeing a movie about a “culinary sound collective,” a trio that boils, fries, blends, and chops not for the purpose of eating, but to make aggro noise collage? Is their story actually being narrated (in Greek, no less) by a dyspeptic writer who grapples with crippling flatulence? Which he discusses a lot?
You're not having a midnight dream after an especially spicy dinner. British director Peter Strickland has, over a handful of bespoke features, claimed a lane for himself as a filmmaker who distills hypnotic moods that can be found nowhere else. He often starts with the retro surfaces of giallo horror films (2012's Berberian Sound Studio) or sexploitation psychodramas (2014's The Duke of Burgundy) but ultimately burrows down to something emotionally deeper. It's what makes him more than just an overgeeked video-store clerk (if you remember what those were).
In the case of Flux Gourmet (out Friday), Strickland is after the joys and difficulties of making art. That's not so difficult to grasp. And even though he never lets us know when this is — no cellphones or flatscreens, it takes place in some mid-'70s solid-state Bowie zone — there are enough details to make the experience more cozy than distancing. Suffice it to say we're in a secluded manor house where, apparently for years, “sonic caterers” have won coveted three-week residencies to hone their craft. As harpsichords ripple (the lovely main theme is by Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, of the duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and fashionable invitees get to work, a hint of nostalgia takes root: This privileged moment won't last forever, but it's here right now.