IF you can spare 71 minute of your precious life, please watch The Party, the latest film offering from Sally Potter (Ginger & Rosa, 2012; Rage, 2009). Indeed, I implore you to see it. This is film making at its very best.
A belter of a film that you will want to watch time and time again.
Shot in black and white, it packs more into 71 minute than some films do in three times the length. It will make you laugh and cringe in equal parts.
The Party takes place in the home of Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Bill (Timothy Spall). Janet has just been made Shadow Health Minister and she is celebrating the promotion with a small get together (the party) of close ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely).
It is obvious that things are not quite right from the very start (I will ignore the opening scene). Bill, an academic, sits morosely in his chair as if he has just seen a ghost. Music plays on his precious gramophone while he drinks deeply from a bottle of red wine.
Meanwhile, Janet is in the kitchen preparing the vol-au-vents and taking endless congratulatory calls from her friends and a lover. Bill sits on. Staring into space.
Into the house drip the friends. There is the cocaine snorting banker Tom (Cillian Murphy) who has come without his wife Marianne (temporarily delayed) but has brought a gun to keep him company. April (Patricia Clarkson) and her mad cap partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) cannot stop arguing, understandably so given that they are splitting up. April possesses an acid tongue while Gottfried, a life coach, veers between madness and fascism.
The friends are completed by lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer). Martha is an academic and a long standing friend of Bill’s while Jinny is pregnant with triplets. Martha is hard as nails, Jinny bordering on a breakdown.
What follows is utter carnage. Burnt vol-au-vents are the least of their problems. There are: Guns, drugs, a near death, startling revelations about past and current relationships and health issues, political hypocrisy (nothing new there), fallouts and physical violence. As for the film’s final twist, it is quite brilliant.
The stellar cast delivers in spades. But Patricia Clarkson stands out from the madding crowd. She gives April verbal claws, handing out vitriol like confetti. Indeed, she rarely utters a word unless it is in spite. I was cringing every time she was about to deliver another put-down. A virtuoso performance that will live long in the memory.
Spall is not far behind with the black and white film accentuating every fold in his face and the emptiness in his eyes. A seething ball of regret and resentment.
This is Potter taking pot shots at the metropolitan elite – a mix of hypocritical politicians, money grabbing bankers and academics living in their book lined bubbles. It is both coruscating and great fun.
Watch it and laugh. Then watch it again and marvel at what Potter has created. A marvellous lean film that is stripped of every ounce of fat. More please Ms Potter OBE.
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Janet: Kristen Scott Thomas
Bill: Timothy Spall
April: Patricia Clarkson
Gottfried: Bruno Ganz
Martha: Cherry Jones
Jinny: Emily Mortimer
Tom: Cillian Murphy
Director: Sally Potter
Cinematographer: Aleksei Rodionov