How to Talk to Girls at Parties: the spirit of wacky punk

Film still of How to Talk to Girls at Parties © RR

From John Cameron Mitchell, the director of Shortbus (Out of Competition, 2006) comes a much anticipated adaptation of the story by Neil Gaiman (2006), How to Talk to Girls at Parties: extraterrestrial, punk and adolescent stories set in the London suburb of Croydon. Funny, a bit wacky and quite touching, the film includes Alex Sharp (Enn), the young Elle Fanning (Zan), and Nicole Kidman (Boadicea) playing the eccentric grunge owner of the local pub.

To illustrate the spirit of the punk revolution, John Cameron Mitchell avoids all clichés and in preference to the hit songs of 1977, he goes for the "real underground gems" of The Damned, the Homosexuals and the Dyschords, a fictional punk band created by Martin Tomlinson and Bryan Weller to provide the film's musical ambiance.  Impressed, Neil Gaiman says he "loves the fact that the Dyschords actually did one or two concerts to get this sound and this atmosphere live." "They sound like a real punk band that you just missed out on."


Every detail has been worked out this way. Three-time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell helped create a realistic period-piece tableau. "It's about punks from the very early days of the movement, when kids cut up their school uniforms and they managed with what they had. This wasn't a fashion, it was a movement." As for the aliens, in Neil Gaiman's opinion, they had to have "something extraterrestrial, but nothing so bizarre or strange that people would stop and stare at them."


Don't forget, as John Cameron Mitchell reminds us, the cataclysm detonated by the Sex Pistols with their first television appearance in 1976. "When guitarist Steve Jones called their host a 'fucking rotter', it felt like civilisation was about to implode."