The Party review: Sally Potter writes and directs this ultra-tight character-driven drama which boasts an impressive cast.
The Party review by Paul Heath at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.
It has been five years since Sally Potter’s last film, the very well received Ginger and Rosa. Her latest takes center stage at the Berlin Film Festival with a huge, if limited central cast. We open on Kristin Scott-Thomas’ Janet pointing a revolver directly at the camera, a monochrome image that sticks in your mind as we track slightly in time r to cover the events leading up to it. Janet is celebrating career glory, a newly-appointed role as a shadow-minister in parliament, a position that she has been working up to for decades. She’s having a small gathering to celebrate and has invited a few good friends over to to her home. Her phone is constantly ringing with messages of congratulations, and husband Bill (Timothy Spall) is next door in the lounge, sat in chair, slowly getting pissed while working his way through his record collection.
First to arrive for the evening of entertainment is Janet’s close friend April (Patricia Clarkson) with her boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), followed by a long-time friend of couple, Martha (Cherry Jones), and her partner Jinni (Emily Mortimer). Then there’s sharp-suited banker Tom (Cillian Murphy), who arrives ahead of his wife Marianne, who is revealed to be a colleague of Janet’s. Everything is going well until Bill outs two very big secrets, which both kick off a series of events which affect everyone involved.
Sally Potter’s script is full of very comedic dialogue, complete with acidic comebacks and razor-sharp wit. It is hilarious all the way through and has easily been the best-received film here at the Berlinale this year. Timothy Spall continues his winning streak following a brave turn in this year’s Denial, in a slightly lighter-hearted though equally intense key role which starts off with the actor delivering the role in virtual silence. The dynamic between Patricia Clarkson’s acid-tongued April and Bruno Ganz’s submissive aromatherapy guru provide much of the laughter, while Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer also deliver two strong performances as a lesbian couple who also have some big news to share with the group. Cillian Murphy drops a massively energetic performance as the wired, drug-fueled, but ultimately wimpy banker Tom. Kristen Scott Thomas is the glue that brings them altogether for it only to slowly break apart as this ill-fated party progresses.
I, and the rest of the Palast here in Berlin had an absolute blast with The Party. It is a film that has a very tight plot with not one ounce of fat, with tons of kinetic energy that doesn’t run out of steam at any point throughout. The monochrome look from cinematographer and frequent Potter collaborator Aleksei Rodionov is textured wonderfully and high in contrast, the skilled DOP using a varied range of camera angles to maximise every single space within the film’s single location.
Theatrical and brief, frenetic though very fun, The Party is one that you must not be late to. A virtually flawless foray that delights constantly. Request an invite at your earliest opportunity.
The Party review by Paul Heath, February 2017.
The Party plays in-competition at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.