A preview of The Party, screening this Wednesday

Sally Potter’s first film since 2012 voyeuristically takes a peek at a group of self-satisfied, champagne socialists, as they tear lumps out of each other in an increasingly farcical, middle-class nightmare of social niceties,  acid tongued satire, and burnt vol-au-vents.

One is inevitably reminded of the excruciating Abigail’s Party, though in its ruthless excoriation of unravelling bourgeois lives, this film is closer in tone to Roman Polanski’s Carnage. Centred on Kristin Scott Thomas’s Janet, the newly appointed shadow health minister, her house guests quickly reveal themselves as petty, self-serving and generally unlikeable. Among a star studded cast, Bruno Ganz is particularly memorable as the woolly headed life coach, while Patricia Clarkson is viperous in her wry observations. It’s left to Timothy Spall and Cillian Murphy to drive the story forward, which they do with the economy needed for the movie’s brisk running time.

Immaculately presented in pin sharp monochrome, and with a great soundtrack courtesy of the host’s vinyl collection, The Party is effectively a showcase for the huge talent assembled, as one set piece is trumped by the next, albeit in what is essentially a shaggy dog story. The narrative may be slight, and the punch line a tad improbable, but the ride along the way is great fun.

By David Vass