Black-and-white is used and abused for style. We often forget how effective it is under limited resources.
Take Sally Potter’s The Party, for instance. Here’s a film with a basic premise, a competent cast, and dry wit; it would’ve worked well had it looked like every other movie. However, when our visual senses are stripped, we inherently feel the need to examine what we’re watching. It explains why Potter has filled her film with music cues triggered by a stammering and spaced out Timothy Spall (The Journey), or the close-ups of an anxious wildcard (Cillian Murphy), a self-indulgent free spirit (Bruno Ganz), a jealous host (Kristin Scott Thomas), and a sharp-tongued guest (Patricia Clarkson). When the audience sees something out of the ordinary at this sophisticated soirée, Potter wants us to focus on the blemish so she can craft a crisis on the sidelines with her experienced ensemble.
The Party works in a specific element, which is why the film has staggered missteps when the story expands and gets louder. Luckily, those pear-shaped moments are far and few between; allowing the cast to play along with the sneaky storytelling.
It’s an acquired taste, but The Party is one cool flick.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie