British director Sally Potter has one of the most diverse CVs in contemporary film: actress; writer; cinematographer; and even composer; as well as director.
For The Party, her latest feature, she has written and directed, therefore making this a true auteur work.
Shot daringly in black-and-white, by Russian cinematographer Aleksei Rodionov, this modern, dark, comedy of manners, has been written like a play. All the action takes place within four rooms of a house, and almost within real time.
Janet is throwing a small party to celebrate her elevation to the position of Shadow Minister for Health. Her husband Bill sits quietly in the living room, playing records, while she cooks and greets the guests, all of whom are upper-middle-class intelligentsia. What begins as a celebratory soiree soon disintegrates into a melee, once the veneer is stripped and everyone’s secrets are revealed. The comedy is boosted by a coke-snorting financier, a gun, a flakey German healer and burnt vol-au-vents.
Heading up a stellar cast is Kristin Scott Thomas as Janet. The always perfect Timothy Spall plays Bill, while the divine Patricia Clarkson is Janet’s politically cynical bestie, April. One of the surprise joys of this piece is Bruno Ganz as Gottfried. Also present and accounted for are the seemingly ubiquitous Emily Mortimer (and frankly, I can’t see enough of her), Cillian Murphy and Cherry Jones. This is ensemble work at its finest.
Slashing through the undergrowth of liberal sensibilities, and demolishing the facades of relationships, The Party is hilarious, discomforting and steeped in psychological authenticity.
Special shout-out too, to Carlos Conti and Jane Petrie for production and costume design respectively. Designing for black-and-white is a fine art, and they have pulled it off beautifully.
This is one of the most grown-up English-language comedies to hit the screens in a long time.
The Party opens tomorrow.
Check out Sally Potter’s site here.