The Party

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+The Party

Written and Directed by: Sally Potter

Produced by: Christopher Sheppard, Kurban Kassam

Cinematographer: Alexey Rodionov

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

The Party is a film filled with cynical wit as newly appointed Shadow Minister of Health, Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) celebrates her new post by hosting a party.

Bill (Timothy Spall), husband and long-time supporter sits in a daze with a glass in hand as each guest arrives: best friend April (Patricia Clarkson) and her New Age partner, Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer), newly pregnant, and the handsome financier, Tom (Cillian Murphy) – all sitting on their own agenda as a constant barrage of political and social standpoints are thrown around the room building to their very own announcements.

A film of contrasts, and not just because the entirety is shot in black and white, but because of the contrast of ideals and personalities.  Even the music played on the turntable by Bill is a bizarre backdrop and soundtrack to the emotive tension in the lounge room; tragedy and trauma played out to the rumba and reggae creating the ridiculous and send-up to all the seriousness discussed from life expectancy related to economics and class rather than diet and exercise – a statistic Janet and husband Bill have always agreed upon – to the question of life after death.

The setting of the film is the house of Janet and Bill – there’s no hiding as each character is forced to face the crisis looming in each relationship: the dying academic, the cheating wife; each person intellectualising their emotion into a rational argument all to the sound of Bill’s insistence of playing record after record, his need for music a compulsion to express.

This is a film driven by dialogue, and the set was created and shot on stage like a play where each character slowly unravels as each reveals the next revelation – the story’s interest in the layers of rationale used as self-protection being pealed away to show the raw human hiding underneath; argument and ideals and political stances made as an adult only to show the child still hiding underneath.  Except for April.  Now a cynic.  Janet asks her best friend, ‘Have I been emotionally unavailable?’

Of which April replies, ‘It’s not a productive line of thought’.

There are so many subtle moments that got me giggling.  Small details like Bill sitting confused, a glass of red in one hand and the celebratory glass of champagne in the other.

It’s sad, it’s tragic.  And the understanding of what we cling to, to keep our ego’s intact, is examined and oh so very funny.

Writer and director Sally Potter (Orlando (1992)), states she wrote the script with an awareness of the absurdity of human suffering; the highlight for me April as she cuts through any emotion with her scathing, but not to be taken personally, remarks aimed at revealing the true and rational perspective with her unblinking eye, ‘You’re a first-rate lesbian and a second-rate thinker.’

To which Martha, Professor of Women’s Studies replies ‘April, Really.  I am a professor. Specializing in domestic labour gender differentiation in American utopianism.’

‘Exactly,’ says April.

Left with nothing unnecessary for the story to come full-circle in 71 minutes, The Party is a clever film that takes you into the claustrophobic world of relationships in crisis viewed through the lens of a political satire; the most selfless of the group the coke snorting soulless financier, Tom – now that’s cynical.

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The Sense of an Ending

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MThe Sense of an Ending

Director: Ritesh Batra

Producers: David M Thompson and Ed Rubin

Screenplay: Nick Payne

Based on: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Joe Alwyn

Tony Webster (the ever-reliable Jim Broadbent) leads a reclusive, quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the imperfect recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love and the disturbing consequences of decisions made long ago.

While not a must see film it is well-made, intriguing and mysterious, more of a slow burner than a page turner. The first part unfolded slowly and there was as much mystery as there were questions answered throughout the film. A major theme throughout is the recognition of how the memory of youth can directly influence the present.

The film provides a good mystery and exploration of the complications of human (and family) relationships. The film is set in two different time periods and it was interesting watching actors inhabit the same role as younger and older versions of the same characters.

Jim Broadbent was excellent as the curmudgeonly older version of Tony Webster, an introvert whose ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter) remains one of his best friends in later life.

Charlotte Rampling plays the older Veronica, Tony’s first love, and despite not being on the screen for long, she effectively conveys a sense of being her own person, a mystery that Tony was unable to resolve or understand for who she actually was.

Suggested events were hinted at but some were left unexplained, and it is tantalising wanting to know why one character had such a strong hold over Tony more than forty years later. There are also parallels between the past and the present in the situations characters found themselves in, separated by several decades.

The screenplay, adapted by Nick Payne from the novel by Julian Barnes, may cause admirers of the novel to criticise the licences taken with the original version. Director Ritesh Batra and screenplay writer Nick Payne remain faithful to the essence of the novel, but have generalised places and characters in a way better suited to a cinematic rendering.

For example, the novel relies heavily on the internalised nature of Tony’s narration in the book, which would not have translated easily to the screen unless there was excessive reliance on voice-overs and extended shots of Tony just sitting around looking introspective. Therefore, some minor characters who were just memories for Tony were fleshed out into fully formed roles in the film, so his subjective perception of other characters was counter-balanced by them having their own personalities separate from his view of them.

It also becomes obvious as the film progresses that Tony’s memory is not entirely reliable, which affects how the audience views him and his recollections. Having the other characters acting independently of him allows us to question how much of what we learn from Tony is the truth or just his version of it, which adds to the mystery.

The film was photographed and edited in a careful, slow way that will appeal to those who enjoy settling in for a slower paced unfolding that combines old mysteries with the gradual awakening of living in the present and coming to terms with what happened so long ago.