The Party is a 1968 comedy film directed by Blake Edwards, starring Peter Sellers and Claudine Longet. The film has a very loose structure, and essentially serves as a series of set pieces for Sellers’s improvisational comedy talents. The comedy is based on a fish out of water premise, in which a bungling Indian actor accidentally gets invited to a lavish Hollywood dinner party and “makes terrible mistakes based upon ignorance of Western ways.
The Party is considered a classic comedic cult film. Edwards biographers Peter Lehman and William Luhr said, “The Party may very well be one of the most radically experimental films in Hollywood history; in fact it may be the single most radical film since D.W. Griffith‘s style came to dominate the American cinema.” Film historian Saul Austerlitz wrote, “Despite the offensiveness of Sellers’s brownface routine,The Party is one of his very best films… Taking a page from Tati, this is neorealist comedy, purposefully lacking a director’s guiding eye: look here, look there. The screen is crammed full of activity, and the audience’s eyes are left to wander where they may.”
The original script was only 63 pages in length. Edwards later said it was the shortest script he ever shot from, and the majority of the content in the film was improvised on set.
The film draws much inspiration from the works of Jacques Tati; Bakshi arrives at the party in a Morgan three-wheeler similar to Monsieur Hulot‘s cyclecar in Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. The entire film storyline is reminiscent of the Royal Garden restaurant sequence of Playtime; and the comedic interaction with inanimate objects and gadgets parallels several of Tati’s films, especially Mon Oncle.
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