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Party, The (AF)


Stars: Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, Cherry Jones, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz

Director: Sally Potter

Trendy filmgoers will need no urging (especially as there was an unabashed 'editorial feature' plug in an upmarket Sunday newspaper) to hail Sally Potter's 'comedy wrapped around a tragedy' as a yet another of her 'masterpieces'.

Patently it's at the work of an auteur -and one devoted to skewering the middle class from the point of view of a supremely self-satisfied left-wing moviemaker determined to skewer anyone not sharing her patronising view of non-auteurs, being billed as 'A film by'. That about the actors and considerable behind the camera talents involved?

Filmed in real time in a London studio in two weeks it resembles a throwback to the long-ago days of monochrome television when plays were performed live on the small screen leaving actors, as Peter Cushing once told me, to run from set to set in the brief interval provided by a filmed insert. Here, patently, this wasn't necessary since The Party is a film. Anyone running between scenes would have, in fact, been audience members no longer eating to sit through Potter's smugly-delivered story which cried out for the fast-forward button her film will so rightly deserves when it emerges on DVD before being shown on its natural home - late night television.

Kristin Scott Thomas's party to celebrate her promotion to the post of shadow Minister of Health starts off exaggeratedly when she points a pistol at an arriving guest, after which its pretentious melange of mounting melodrama, stagey dialogue and claustrophobic studio settings never convinces.Brave players led by Clarkson's bitchy April, Spall as Thomas's terminally ill husband Bill who - rightly as it transpires - prefers playing records disc-jockey style to participating in the pretentious storyline Potter confects, Murphy's Tom, cheerfully sniffing snow in the bathroom, and Bruno Ganz as Clarkson's unfortunate German husband - work harder than the material deserves but never succeed in making the stagey, increasingly irritating show come alive as anything much more than simply a 'look-at-me, aren't I simply wonderful!' filmmaker's folly.

And remember - with some financing by the BFI (Lottery money) and BBC (TV licence money) in it - you will already have paid not to see this film.

Alan Frank

UK 2017. UK Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment. Black and white.
71 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 15 Oct 2017