Magazine article Screen International

'The Party': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Party': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Sally Potter delivers an ensemble comedy of manners in her most enjoyable film to date.

Dir: Sally Potter. UK, 2017 71 mins

If Timothy Spall hadn't already appeared in a film called Secrets And Lies, that would have been a perfect title for The Party, a brisk comedy of neurotic manners from British writer-director Sally Potter. Dissections of conflicted bourgeois self-obsession are plentiful on the British stage but currently far less so in UK cinema, which makes The Party something of a rarity - and it's surprising that such a film should be the work of a director generally known for formally experimental, anti-mainstream fictions, such as Orlando, verse drama Yes and 2009 minimalist talking-heads piece Rage.

While ostensibly decidedly mainstream - or at least, affecting a mainstream guise - The Party is a crisp, energetic, highly compact (at 71 minutes) comedy, and the most enjoyable film yet from a director whose conceptual seriousness has often seemed daunting. Theatrical prospects may be niche, but the film's intelligence, entertainment factor, and fine performances from a prestige cast will win The Party ample hospitality on other platforms and at festivals.

Shot in stark, grainy black and white, and set in a middle-class London home, the film begins with a door opening, and Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) pointing a camera at a person unknown - that is, right at the viewer. We then track back to earlier in the day, with Janet making a phone call revealing that she has something to celebrate: a successful British opposition politician (it's not mentioned by name, but the other 'party' involved here is clearly Labour), she has just been appointed Shadow Minister for Health. But while she prepares food in the kitchen, her husband Bill (Spall) is next door, increasingly lost in booze and music, with something dark on his mind.

One by one, the couple's guests arrive. They are April (Patricia Clarkson), a steely American cynic with a quiver of acidic one-liners, and her unlikely partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a German aromatherapist with an indefatigably touchy-feely attitude to life's problems; lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), the latter fresh from a pregnancy scan; and Tom (Cillian Murphy in uncharacteristic comic vein, and deliciously full-on), banker husband of the couple's friend Marianne. …

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