The Party + Philomela’s Chorus

14/02/2019 19:45.
Cert 15

Potter, who began as a director in the theatre, sets The Party in the confined space of a London town house. It is given by Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) to cele­brate her appointment as a shadow minister, with her husband Bill (Timothy Spall), her friend April (Patricia Clarkson), and the latter’s husband (Bruno Ganz) in attendance. The film, pacy and with deft camera movement, is not at all stagy. Rather the setting concentrates the impact of the acerbic dialogue and the action, of which there is plenty. Some would label the characters ‘the metropolitan élite’. Be that as it may, Potter skewers them.

“[…] a brisk, coruscatingly witty farce […], this is a comedy that bites because it is utterly and urgently of our moment” (So Mayer, Sight and Sound,

Dir: Sally Potter   70mins   UK   2017

The 2017 Encounters Shorts Package—Philomela’s Chorus

Four short films from four young black British female directors commissioned to address the under-representation of women in moving image production. With a total run time of 40 minutes the films use video art, performance and experimental narratives to explore ideas of the hidden censored voice.

The Words I do Not Have Yet Phoebe Boswell / UK / 11mins;
Amine                                      Beverley Bennett / UK / 12mins;
Mel’s Lament                                Nicola Thomas / UK / 8mins;
Something Said                                 Jay Bernard / UK / 8mins

Programme Notes

Perhaps Sally Potter could see into the future when writing and directing The Party because, in light of recent events in the political spectrum, the characters we see in tonight’s film are positively likeable.

Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) has just become Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, and is attempting to celebrate with a select group of her friends. The mood music is DJ’d by husband Bill (Timothy Spall) while imbibing copious amounts of wine, the black American style he plays showing off his London ‘cool-dude’ aspirations. Janet’s best friend April (Patricia Clarkson), a world-weary cynic, is generously given all the best lines, perhaps to compensate for her insipid husband Gottfried (a playfully cast Bruno Ganz). With additional support from Emily Mortimer, Cherry Jones, and Cillian Murphy (as Tom, with his notably absent wife Marianne) the scene is set for an excoriating expose of the political and intellectual middle classes.
The age of innocence is long dead – politics and politicians are no longer fit for purpose – so where/what can we turn to for inspiration and leadership?  Not to the vol-au-vents (so passé) – but Janet has much more on her mind than balancing her career against her culinary expertise. Forget the glass ceiling – will women ever escape the expectations of the kitchen?

“The versatile writer-director’s latest is a dark satire exposing the foibles of the British middle classes and political systems, with barbed dialogue and delicious irony” Geoff Andrew, Sight&Sound.

Kristin Scott Thomas – Janet
Timothy Spall – Bill
Patricia Clarkson – April
Bruno Ganz – Gottfried
Emily Mortimer – Jinny

Director – Sally Potter
Producers – Kurban Kassam, Christopher Sheppard
Screenplay – Sally Potter, Walter Donohue
Cinematography – Aleksei Rodionov
Music Department – Matt Biffa et al


  • Brilliant!                      Great!                          Different!
  • Fantastic – let’s have more like this!
  • Best film this year – exquisitely funny. Radio 3 version of Abigail’s Party – also powerful echoes of      Sartre’s In Camera
  • Light hearted, brisk, black comedy – clever ending
  • Very witty and entertaining, with a great twist in the final scene
  • Very black and white
  • OK – but only made watchable by the ensemble cast
  • Hitler as a vapid life coach – wonderful!
  • Pretentious  – I didn’t laugh once
  • Totally ridiculous – and not in a good way!


A:15, B:5, C:2, D:1, E:1 to give 83% from 92% of those present.