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Sally Potter's THE PARTY, the right kind of dark fun

sally-potters-the-party-the-right-kind-of-dark-fun

A Sally Potter film sounds like the appropriate thing to watch these days. I have not seen her most recent projects, but I've seen Orlando and Yes, two complex endevours of understanding the human psyche. The woman has a style that's worth exploring. Her last film, Ginger & Rosa (2012) was well received, as well.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays the newly appointed Shadow Health Minister celebrating her promotion by hosting a dinner party. Her husband, played by Timothy Spall, also has an announcement to make. All of the five guests have their own agenda and one even has a gun.

"The titular “party” of writer-director Sally Potter’s riotous tragicomedy is both a ghastly social function at which bourgeois lives unravel and the unnamed political opposition party through whose ranks Kristin Scott Thomas’s brittle antiheroine Janet ascends. She’s the newly appointed shadow health minister, a careerist idealist who believes in “truth and reconciliation” rather than shouting, punching and biting. Yet during the course of a single calamitous soiree, her right-thinking, left-leaning comrades will turn on themselves and one another in an increasingly farcical feeding frenzy. Indeed, when we first meet Janet, she’s pointing a gun at the camera, a harbinger of what’s to come in Potter’s short, sharp satire of love, politics and burnt vol-au-vents. [...] Potter looks toward Chekhov, Albee and Buñuel as inspirations, alongside such 60s Brit cinema classics as Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Bryan Forbes’s The L-Shaped Room. There’s a retro feel to Aleksei Rodionov’s handsome black-and-white cinematography, although the ease with which his camera waltzes around the cast lends a note of roving modernity, recalling the fluid poetry of Potter’s 2004 film Yes. Dance has always been central to Potter’s work (not just in The Tango Lesson), and there’s a real exuberance in the way she choreographs her players through the slapstick pirouettes and pratfalls of this vaguely absurdist romp. Meanwhile, Bill’s vinyl collection provides contrapuntal jukebox accompaniment, inappropriate records randomly selected with hilarious results." (The Guardian)

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"The Party, the eighth feature film of Potter’s career, looks set to be her most widely watched work in some time. Briskly shot in crisp black and white, it’s a tight, zesty, riotously funny black comedy, with a deluxe cast including Kristin Scott Thomas, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Timothy Spall and Patricia Clarkson gleefully scratching each other to shreds over the course of just 71 minutes. Scott Thomas is a newly appointed shadow health minister whose marriage and career both come spectacularly undone over the course of her own farcically doomed dinner party; it was conceived, Potter says, “as an entertainment, in the Graham Greene sense of the word”.

It is arguably the most broadly entertaining film of her career, though Potter doesn’t see it as quite the departure that critics have described. “I always thought Orlando was a comedy – in fact, I often think my films are comedies and then I’m surprised when people don’t laugh,” she says. “I’ll get better at it. When writing comedy, it’s technically difficult because you don’t know: is anyone going to laugh? We were laughing while we were making it, but that doesn’t mean people are going to laugh.” Early test screenings were merrily received; concerned they were a fluke, Potter tried it on progressively larger crowds until its Berlin film festival premiere in February. “There’s nothing like sitting in a cinema like the big hall in Berlin, the first huge premiere, with 3,000 people and then hearing the whole place vibrate with laughter. You know it’s doing everyone good, it’s a kind of medicine and it’s also incredibly validating. Because I wanted to work with the healing power of laughter as, let’s say, a shortcut through the really tragic elements.”" (The Guardian)

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"For Potter the term “cultural privilege” is important. It’s different from white privilege because Potter sees privilege being tied in with access and class: “It’s a look at unconscious privilege. It’s importance to get the nuance right in such a class-driven society as England. I say England, advisedly, rather than Scotland or Wales.” The director argues that there is one sure fire way of discovering the truth about people: “It’s in crisis situations that people’s true colours start to show.” So it doesn’t take long for the drama to be heightened as the film blitzes through this tale in 71 brutal, whip-cracking minutes." (Independent)

"Spall’s handog mopiness becomes a better punchline the longer the film goes on: he’s a good sport for overdoing it this ripely in Potter’s frequent close-ups, almost as if asked to turn his best Mike Leigh Face up to 11 for a party trick." (Telegraph)

Check out the trailer below.

Tags:   news, trailer, film news, The Party, Sally Potter

Related:   Ginger & Rosa, The L-Shaped Room, Orlando


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