Whine and cheese
THE PARTY I Sally Potter serves up canapés, cocktails and caustic comedy…
They say a week is a long time in politics. What about two years? When Sally Potter (Orlando, Ginger & Rosa) started writing The Party, it was the 2015 General Election and David Cameron’s Tory party had just emerged victorious. “The Labour Party, the left-wing, suffered a very big defeat, but also didn’t seem to have any identity,” says the British writer-director. “They didn’t seem to have any courage about speaking the truth. That was very disillusioning and difficult.”
Yet subsequent events have changed faster than you can shout, “Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” “Since then there’s been Trump, Brexit, the rise of the right, the crisis in the National Health Service,” says Potter. “All of those things were rumbling along underneath.” Rather than derail her script, this razor-sharp comedy about a middle-class gathering of academics and intellectuals began to feel all the more prescient.
Recalling Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and other take-downs of the bourgeoisie, prepare yourself for a disaster-party like no other, as newly promoted opposition MP Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) hosts an intimate soirée for old friends to celebrate her promotion to shadow minister for Health. Joining her for an evening where more than just the hors d’oeuvres get burnt are a cast of Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy and Bruno Ganz.
Shot in black-and-white and running at a brisk 71 minutes, The Party is, as Potter puts it, “a comedy wrapped around a tragedy.” But she took the task seriously, checking out real politicians’ homes, via a “friend of a friend” who works in Westminster. “Politicians of the left are very careful. First of all, they don’t make much money anyway, unless they have a private income. But they are very careful not to do ostentatious displays of wealth.”
With Labour never named as Janet’s party of choice, the director similarly avoided Brexit talk, despite the fact the rapid-fire two-week shoot took place over the time Britons voted to leave the EU. “It would be a mistake to put a knee-jerk reaction into it,” she says. But as a film that captures the national mood, it couldn’t be better timed.
ETA | 29 SEpTEmbEr / THE pArTY OpENS NEXT mONTH.
POLITICAL TUNE Timothy Spall and Patricia Clarkson (below) play guests at the dinner party of Kristin Scott Thomas’ new MP.