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BERLINALE 2017 Competition

The Party: From comedy to tragedy to farce


- BERLIN 2017: Sally Potter's eighth feature is a crisp, engaging comedy of characters and relationships

The Party: From comedy to tragedy to farce
Timothy Spall, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson in The Party

British filmmaker Sally Potter's eighth feature film, The Party [+see also:
Q&A: Sally Potter
film profile
, which is her fourth effort to screen at the Berlinale, had its world premiere in this year's competition. The 71-minute, black-and-white comedy features an all-star cast and an engaging, humorous, but also insightful narrative that goes beyond just the protagonists' lives and what they represent socially. 

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Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just been appointed a Shadow Minister, and the film begins with her receiving congratulations on the phone while in the kitchen, preparing for a celebratory party with her closest friends. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), however, is in the other room, drinking wine and listening to music on records, with an expression on his face that definitely does not signal happiness.

The guests start arriving. First up is April (Patricia Clarkson), a tough, cynical American with her German husband Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), a life coach of some sort. They are followed by lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and pregnant Jinny (Emily Mortimer), and finally, one half of another invited couple, dashing businessman Tom (Cillian Murphy), who says that his wife Marianne will be a little late – before dashing into the bathroom to snort coke and let us catch a glimpse of the pistol he is secretly carrying, which he is obviously not happy about.

As the party kicks off, more announcements are made. Jinny's ultrasound has revealed that she is carrying triplets, which is cause for celebration… but also, apparently, concern for her considerably older girlfriend. However, Bill drops the real bomb: he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is the first time that Janet hears of this as well, and meanwhile she has been receiving amorous text messages from an "unknown" sender.

It is a set-up that offers plenty of opportunity for exchanges and reactions that point to different, often conflicting, opinions ranging from trust in medicine, through politics and morals, to philosophy of life (Gottfried is happy to offer a lot of his own ideas on this last issue), and the interplay between the superb cast members is a true joy to watch. And among them, Spall totally steals the show, with Murphy offering an unexpected and very successful comedic turn.

The Party is a production by London-based Adventure Pictures, and Great Point Media has the international rights. 

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