Review / ‘The Party’ (MA) ****

I SPENT a moderate while asking Google the cost of writer/director Sally Potter using seven top-drawer actors (together with a long list of closing credits) to tell this deliciously complicated dramatic comedy of love, ambition, betrayal, burnt canapés, intellectual argument, political thin ice, grief, anger and 12-inch 78 rpm disks playing music of a bygone era. Using just two locations.

It turns out that its production cost doesn’t really matter. The film works.

“The Party” is a 71-minute witty, low-budget, black-and-white movie that made me laugh immoderately and pressed my buttons for dramatic satisfaction, from its enigmatic opening sequence to its last-moment answer to a question that kept popping up with tantalising refusals to clarify itself. Of such stuff is satisfying story telling made.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays MP Janet in her London kitchen preparing to celebrate her elevation to the shadow health ministry – which automatically bespeaks a poisoned chalice right beside education.

In the drawing room, husband Bill (Timothy Spall) remembers the music of his youth but says nothing.

The first guest is Janet’s chum April (Patricia Clarkson) accompanied by self-proclaimed spiritual healer Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Next to arrive are women’s study professor Martha (Cherry Jones) and her pregnant-with-triplet-boys partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer).

Last guest is Tom (Cillian Murphy), an emotional basket case packing a pistol in a shoulder holster and retiring to the bathroom to do another line of cocaine to replace his wife Marianne who has refused to come.

And all the while Janet is using the smart phone tucked into the left cup of her bra to give the flick to an unnamed lover.

Got you interested? Good.

At Palace Electric, Dendy

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