[Last Film I Watch] The Party (1968)

The Party poster

Title: The Party
Year: 1968
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy
Director: Blake Edwards
Writers:
Blake Edwards
Tom Waldman
Frank Waldman
Music: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Cast:
Peter Sellers
Claudine Longet
Steve Franken
Gavin MacLeod
Fay McKenzie
J. Edward McKinley
Denny Miller
Marge Champion
James Lanphier
Jean Carson
Buddy Lester
Rating: 7.2/10

The Party 1968

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers’ rowdy comedy about an Indian actor Hrundi V. Bakshi (Sellers), who is brought from India to act in a studio epic picture. When his offbeat improvisation and unwitting behaviour sabotage the entire production, he is fired and black-listed, but by a single mistake, his name is added onto the guest list of a party thrown by Alice Clutterbuck (McKenzie), the wife of the studio head Fred Clutterbuck (McKinley). So Hrundi happily accepts the invitation and attends the party in Clutterbuck’s posh mansion, and turns the party into an absurd and bubbly farce.

The absurdity might come from the influences of Jacques Tati, but its calibration is much broader and the devil-may-care outlandishness is less refined, quite pertinent to serve the purpose of caricaturing the tawdry and supercilious constitutions of the Tinseltown industry though. Without a particular character-building or story-unfolding, the story meanders aimlessly through Hrundi’s slapstick around various characters, among which the guests are all dignified in their formality, apart from the host and hostess, some notable ones are the Western film star Kelso (Miller), a haughty Ms. Dunphy (Champion), and a French chanteuse Michele Monet (Longet) accompanied by bigot producer C.S. Divot (MacLeod). The scale of buffoonery balloons accordingly through Hrundi’s often unintended bumbling, and the drunkenness of the waiter Levinson (Franken), whose clash with the major-domo Harry (Lanphier) is crack.

But essentially, it is Sellers’ one-man-show, fashions a funny Indian accent, his gaucheness is a miraculous laughter-inducer, against his self-aware diffidence, he is an exemplary comedian, a bona-fide humorist, who is too good to debase himself into raunchiness, no vulgar toilet jokes, instead his pee-holding antics producing one of the optimal funny moments inside a toilet.

Edwards’ long-time collaborator Henry Mancini scores an entertaining big band soundtrack, where the theme song NOTHING TO LOSE sung by Monet in the film is agreeably catchy. It is difficult to me to claim this is the best comedy of its time, as evidently Edwards lets it loose a bit near the end, all sensational but also indolent in its development, the whole farce evolves into a revelry, without considerable moderation when a painted elephant walks into the foreground, finally as if all the ballyhoo only makes a contribution to enkindle a budding romance between Hrundi and Michele, we never get a punch-drunk final blow the film seems to promise with its pungent irony, in spite of all its distinctive merits and innovative comic bravura.

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