The Party (I) (2017) – A witty satire on ‘polite society’

Trailer The Party (I) (2017)

A massive disappointment

I’d been looking forward to seeing this. It just goes to show that one should never be taken in by a slickly made trailer or a stellar cast-list. What a disappointing load of old codswallop.

Script: abysmal. No attempt made to write anything approaching natural conversation. Dialogue was jagged and disjointed, lacking any genuine motivational flow. Sorry, but real people just DON’T interact like this. And as for it being a comedy, well you could have fooled me. I think I laughed three times, and two of them were little more than polite titters.

Pacing: what pacing? Whole scads of dialogue slouched by like a line of blinded soldiers. At one point I caught myself yawning.

Characterisation: seven characters flapping about on screen and not a single one of them believable: just 2-dimensional assemblages of histrionics. Consequently I never felt any sympathy (or even antipathy) toward any of them, so couldn’t engage with any of the supposed crises they were experiencing.

Performances: almost uniformly muggy and overdone – an effect made even worse by the habit of shooting an awful lot of exchanges in tight close-up.

I was left with the feeling that this might just work on stage (where you’d lose all the tight close-up nonsense) as a short, one-act dark farce. Why on earth anyone thought it would succeed as a movie is beyond me.

Oh yes… I said “short”, didn’t I? When the end credits appeared there was an audible “Uh?” of surprise from the audience. Surely an entire movie hadn’t passed already? On exiting the cinema I checked the time. The film had lasted barely over an hour. Mind you, on second thoughts this was probably a blessing: not sure I could have withstood another 30 minutes of such nonsense.

Pure fun

Shot in black and white and clocking in at just over an hour, it is one of the more original movies coming out of the Berlinale. Several elements stand out, like the production design by Carlos Conti (37°2 le matin) with its odd, detached feeling bringing to the movie, but also the daring cinematography by Aleksei Rodionov (Idi I smotri, Orlando!) combined with good editing makes the movie work.

So nice work in all sectors, but basically it is the actors who have to carry through in this dark comedy, somewhat difficult to define: Third screwball, third Woody Allen, and a third Britcom but definitely with a style of its own.

Potter herself gave the best synopsis by calling it a movie about ideals and convictions getting tested in a crisis situation. The really good script lines are dispersed among the excellent cast, although I do have a weakness for the role of Timothy Spall, such a great and modest actor, gripping the movie from the start onwards.

Why not rate this higher? I think it lacks a really great ambition, it is a nice ensemble piece, but despite the good things feels somewhat empty, more entertainment than art. The sum of the parts just doesn’t add up enough for me, which often means the difference between OK and excellent.

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A witty satire on ‘polite society’

The story of ‘The Party’ was unbeknownst to me upon my viewing of the film. All I knew was that it is directed by British Auteur Sally Potter and stars Kristen Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall and Cillian Murphy, which is the extent of context I will divulge here as I feel it is better to watch this film knowing very little about its narrative.

Although simplistic in its base narrative, underneath ‘The Party’ is a short, snappy, satirical view on the modern day socio-political climate. It paints the modern system of politics as ineffective at implementing change, suggesting a more immediate method is required in this day and age to keep up with such a rapidly changing world. The film succeeds and does this effectively through witty dialogue, articulately crafted Mise en Scene and a comedic narrative progression.

The narrative progression I refer to is the advancement of the characters into pure chaos after the guise of ‘polite society’ is stripped away, revealing the hypocrisy behind its ideals and presentation. This chaos is the crux of the film as it magnificently illustrates the futility of the mask that the upper class have created for themselves, which the film heightens through comedic elements giving the film a heavily satirical atmosphere.

Furthermore, the films caricatured characters play a crucial role in conveying the film’s message as many of them are hypocrites, their real faces hiding behind the mask of what ‘polite society’ expects to see, with costume being cleverly utilised to convey to us the true thoughts and feelings of many of the characters whilst simultaneously acting as a red herring in some circumstances, illustrating how we cannot always know whether or not people are truly what they present themselves as, linking to another key message the film discusses: distrust in the political landscape.

However, although the film has a profound message, it suffers from being very simplistic on its surface. The story is cliché and predictable with a couple of drawn out dull moments, with the real meat of the film laying underneath, and whilst this is the case for most films, the surface has to be captivating at the same time in order to engage the audience. In this sense ‘The Party’ could be potentially divisive for audiences as the film runs the risk of appearing pretentious and dull for some viewers, which I can confirm as many left my screening of the film verbally disgruntled.

In conclusion, ‘The Party’ is an incredibly humorous, satirical take on modern day society’s political landscape as well as the hypocrisy of ‘polite society’ and its bloated sense of self righteousness. Although it has its flaws, ‘The Party’ is a highly entertaining film with a punchy message that really sticks with you after you’ve left the theatre: indecision is the face of modern day politics, and that desperately needs to change.

Delicious!

Should you RSVP to ‘The Party’? The Party is a stage adaptation to the big screen of a small party. The movie is witty. Brevity is wit! and so is this movie.

I liked this movie like I liked the single malt scotch I had while watching it. Tiny little sips of delight.

This movie is the antithesis of a raucous CGI event with super-sized cola drinks and popcorn. The characters are real, not computer generated, and the make-up worn here is called personality. The protagonist here isn’t trying to save the world, but merely there own world. However, best laid plans go awry at first contact and drama ensues to the viewer’s pleasure.

The movie is in black and white. Thank God, the director has taste. We read books that are in black and white, don’t we? Black text on white paper. It is sufficient to paint extremely colorful stories.

The characters, their personalities, relationships, back-stories and the plot are masterfully intertwined. The narrative plays out like a group dance. The characters are initially arrayed in a circle on the dance floor. Each character does a brief solo dance act that introduces us to the idiosyncrasies of that character. Subsequently, characters step forwards in pairs or triples for a friendly or feuding dance number. This is the literary equivalent of the final dance scene in Footloose!

The movie will appeal more to a mature audience with several years of life experience, who will more likely recognize and appreciate the numerous understated references to numerous social, cultural, religious and political topics throughout the movie.

Finally, if none of that appeals to you. It has Cilian Murphy! Go watch it!

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