Director: Cynthia Beatt
The Party takes place over the course of a drunken evening in a yuppie couple's home. The film's alternate title. Nature Morte (still life) reveals a clue to the status of the couple's relationship. Queenie and Burrsie have been living together for some time. They wake up in the morning snarling at each other. Their fashionable loft is strewn with the debris of the night before. After years of familiarity and contempt, their relationship is tenuous. Their idea of a social evening is to torture each other in front of their friends, he by getting embarrassingly drunk, she by seducing a newcomer on the dance floor. Their friends all seem to take this behaviour for granted, for they know how unhappy the couple is, and they care for both. Queenie and Burrsie's professions are unspecified, as are those of their friends, although many of them have philosophical, scientific, or poetic reflections to make during their moments in the spotlight.
At the centre of everything is the evermore astounding Tilda Swinton, wild and
compelling in her jagged hatred, and exquisite in her beauty. Elfi Mikesch's sinuously moving camera glides by, capturing everyone in luminous black and white and precise tones of grey. The film is not as bleak in execution as
the scenario might indicate, for the strength of imagination, the depth of compassion and understanding, and the interludes of music and poetry, all bring a rare beauty to this worldly little film. Cynthia Beatt has made a very assured film, for it is extremely risky in its structure and subject matter, and extremely satisfying in its accomplishment.
• Kay Armatage