The Dinner Party Review

A farewell party with a difference goes wrong, in this Australian drama released on DVD by Kaleidoscope.

The Dinner Party is a debut feature from writer-director Scott Murden. Set in Canberra, it unfolds in flashback as various students are questioned by police about something that happened the previous night – which naturally we don’t find out towards the end. The dinner party of the title is hosted by Angela (Lara Cox). She invites several of her friends, because afterwards she and her boyfriend Joel (Ben Seton) are going to kill themselves…

It doesn’t happen quite like that, naturally. Some of the students are rather mature (the one whose age is given is twenty-seven), but they’re a dislikeable bunch, and even at eighty-eight minutes the film is long-drawn-out and tedious. By the end you simply no longer care about any of these people, despite some decent acting and a certainly more than competent use of the camera by Murden. The film was shot in HD (is it a sign of the times that Brett Murphy is credited for “HD image and lighting design” rather than as “director of photography?), which for most of the time bathes the cast in a coral-orange light, which switches to glaring white-out by the end of the film.

The Disc: Kaleidoscope have released The Dinner Party on a single-layered disc encoded for all regions.

The DVD transfer is in the ratio of 1.78:1 and anamorphically enhanced. As stated above, The Dinner Party was shot in HD, probably in 1080p. (In the commentary, Murden says he would have liked to shoot on the Red One, but the film was made just before it went on the market.) The transfer is a little softer than one derived from 35mm would be, but I don’t doubt it’s faithful to the look that the filmmakers intended.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is quite ambitious, with a lot of directional sound, with TV broadcasts offscreen and muzak during the dinner party itself using the surrounds. There is also a Dolby Surround (2.0) track. Unfortunately there are no subtitles for the hard of hearing.

The commentary is by Scott Murden and producer Brendan Sloane. Near the beginning they promise not to deliver a “cricket commentary” (presumably nothing too scene-specific) and on the whole they succeed – it’s a ramble but not an unentertaining ramble, and it made me wish I’d liked the film more. The only other extra is the theatrical trailer, which runs 2:08.


Updated: Aug 02, 2010

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