61st London Film Festival – Day 7

Party

A film by Sally Potter with a stellar cast is always going to be a winner. The Party is one such. By modern standards, quite short – it runs for 88 minutes and was shot in two weeks. This is a political thriller with a twist. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Janet, a married woman whose whole life has been devoted to politics and the Party; her husband, Bill, Timothy Spall has evidently supported her along the path, and finally she has made it to the top.

Bill is monosyllabic for most of the film, and yet it is a very powerful performance, in some ways it is he that is the central character, not Janet. Mr Spall brings this off quite marvellously.

So a small group of close friends are celebrating, but the rooms are full of secrets.  Lives are imbalanced and are about to unravel, so this is both a tragedy and also comedy, at times extremely funny. There are moments of shock, frequently de-fused by a caustic aside from Patricia Clarkson, who plays April one of Janet’s true friends. April is married to Gottfried, lugubriously played by Bruno Ganz as a mystic faith healer, the relationship between them is clearly close, though she is impatient with his endless aphorising clichés. Many moments between them made the audience laugh.

There is a lesbian couple, one of them, Jinny has just discovered she is with child, April reminds her each time “children”, as she has announced that she is having triplets. This sudden addition to coupledom freaks out her older partner, Martha. This couple, played by Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer are both conflicted and yet very solid together.

Finally there is a drug fuelled financier…

Filmed in black and white, on a single set – three rooms in a terraced house, mostly interiors (kitchen, bathroom and sitting room) plus a small terrace garden – it is closely and superbly observed, and the gradual reveals that rupture the party mood are both immensely disturbing (to the individuals) while seeming extraordinarily funny to the audience.

The music is unusual, there is no “sound track”, Bill plays an endless series of vinyl records, good jazz and this shows quite subtly his life, and the way it has changed. In the Q&A afterwards, Sally revealed that they were her vinyls…

This will be in Picturehouse Screens almost immediately – I strongly recommend it, possibly followed by A Comedy of Terrors!

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