The outrageous cinema of director Peter Strickland, the man behind the latest art house oddities Berber sound studio, The Duke of Burgundyand Fabric, conjures up all sorts of wild images, wilder costumes, wilder sounds. There have been killer dresses that have wiped out washing machines, and there are retro-chic sado-masochistic lesbians living out their favorite water sports fantasies. There have been menstruating models, for heaven’s sake.
And yet, for all its strange and transgressive tendencies, there has always been the thump of genuine tenderness slamming beneath the ribcages of these stories. His last, Gourmet Feed, is no different – it just shifts its compassion slightly south, proving that daffy accents and elaborate head bows are nothing compared to a perfectly timed toot.
How far does a fart joke go pfft if a fart joke can pfft far? Is it more of a glitch or more of a squeak? A long paperclip or a rusty trawler? Does it shake, rattle, roll? There are all sorts of ways to approach the deeply human but still taboo subject of flatulence. One of the stories from the age-old collection of Middle Eastern folk tales Thousand and one Night tells the story of a man who is forced to flee his country because he accidentally let a little piece slip out of his marriage. Founding father Benjamin Franklin, who invented bifocal lenses and the catheter, once poured his megawatt wisdom on the subject into a (satirical) letter titled “Fart Proudly” in which he implored the great scientific minds of his day to find a way to smell our gas. not quite so awful. “Perhaps a glass of lime water was drunk at dinner?” He proposed. And it’s all centuries before Mel Brooks turned a cowboy bean dinner into a symphony of stench with Blazing Saddles.
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The passage of the wind has passed down through the ages like a smelly little soccer ball, and everyone has had their run. In the cinema, the ignition of farts à la Lloyd in Stupid and even dumber is the typical route – rude chuckles, lowest of chuckles. But scatological provocateurs like Pier Paolo Pasolini and John Waters, in films like Salò, pink flamingos, and Polyester, plumbed the depths of back-end bustin’, slicing up our provincial era like so much cut cheese. Amedee lifted her skirts and pooped straight to the Best Picture Oscar, while The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa happily sang “clear[ing] the savannah after every meal” to the impressionable young minds of a generation of children. You learn the ways of methane early and hard!
With such iconic cinematic flatulence already aplenty, I didn’t think there was much left to do when it came to tailwind humor. However, Gourmet Feed proved that there is still some horn left in this specific horn. Let my favorite jester iconoclast find a way!
Gourmet Feed tells the story of Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), the in-house documentarian at the Sonic Catering Institute, where teams of avant-garde musicians come to plant microphones in boiling, bubbling pots. His job is to interview and photograph the bands during their four-week residencies, documenting their tortured process of turning food into music as they progress to their final big performance. The only problem this time is that it’s Stones himself whose process is backed up.
As he laments in voiceover:
“Where does the endless wind come from that lifts my stomach like a balloon? Why does it persist? When I see joy and surrender, my mind always comes back to that. Why can one stomach be so free and another not? »
His indigestion has indigestion, and the evil doctor Dr. Glock (Richard Bremmer) is of no help; he seems to revel in Stones’ suffering. Trapped in residence with the new band, Stones has no respite, no relief. And as funny as Gourmet Feed is – and it’s a howl – Strickland’s film plays off all of Stones’ agony as deadly serious. There’s only one fart in everything Gourmet Feed, a brilliantly timed little squeak that Stones manages to steal as he hides in some rose bushes in the middle of dinner. There are scenes of killer mimes wielding terrapins and Gwendoline Christie having a dramatic breakdown while wearing a satin version of the bunny costume from A Christmas story. And yet farts, the eternal punchline, are kept out of reach. You could say it’s the silent but deadly approach.
[Strickland] wants us to take on the gastrointestinal distress with a straight face amidst all the absurdity of sound restoration
It’s a glorious tactic of restraint on Strickland’s part, and in many a interview about the film, he made it clear that was his intention – he wants us to take on the gastrointestinal distress with a straight face amid all the absurdity of sound restoration. And you can feel a bit of the sadistic discipline of his S&M masterpiece there. The Duke of Burgundy — a true romance where the back and forth of affection is tested by the subject of human toilets. But there’s always that hue in a Strickland joint. He goes his own way, taking us on the long and strange journey – and bless him for it.
What takes Gourmet FeedTaking fart denial to the next level is Strickland’s way of harnessing it for a multi-layered metaphor about the very nature of art itself. Marrying a disgusting gag with an intellectual exposition becomes the ultimate act of high mood from the low. As one of the band members once said, “misunderstanding is the key to our sound.” What is it if not exactly what is going on in Stones’ own disturbed body? It is the immaterial creation itself!
Dissolving cries of Berber sound studio to the infernal static tv commercial of Fabric, Strickland films have always been obsessed with unnerving soundscapes. A former musician, he attributes the atmospheric hum of eraser head to be his original cinematic inspiration. And so in Gourmet Feed, seeing him equate the disruption of the guts with the interpersonal rivalries that shape the artistic process itself is sweet music to my ears.
Do not release it into Smell-O-Vision.
Gourmet Feed is now in theaters.