Film Review: The Party

The Party
Directed by Sally Potter

The party at the heart of The Party is in honour of the newly appointed UK Minister of Health, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas), who bristles with all the right, left-wing liberal approaches to government, socially idealistic although not personally idealistic.

The film looks as though it could be a film version of a stage play (it isn’t) and takes place in a couple of rooms of a house where Janet is hosting a small celebratory party. She has invited her friends April, with her estranged German partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a life coach and self-proclaimed spiritual healer. There is women’s studies professor Martha, with her partner, Jinny, and Janet's colleague and subordinate, Marianne with husband Tom, a coke-sniffing banker who for some reason carries and then hides a pistol.

Most of the time Janet's listless husband, Bill, (Timothy Spall) sits in his chair, listening to music, staring vacantly, and drinking wine. All the while Janet is exchanging secret phone calls and messages with an unseen person, possibly a lover.

The film is remarkably lean and severe. Shot in black and white at times it seems to be shot in real time with the characters making multiple entries and exits. It's full of brilliant, incisive dialogue and at times seems close to being an evening of stand-up comedians. But it is the slowly evolving tensions between the characters that give the film its intensity as shocks and truths are revealed and the veneer of polite urban liberal society start to crumble.

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