THE ENDURING WORLD OF PARTY GIRL
Written by Joshua Bippert, AFS Creative Careers Intern
This month, Austin Film Society is bringing the new 4K restoration of Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s 1995 cult classic, PARTY GIRL, to audiences. It’s a film that found its life (and survived on) the internet from its debut until now. Whether it’s because of its punchy dialogue, various musical earworms, or iconic costumes, PARTY GIRL has established itself as a staple of ’90s New York indie cinema.
Costume Designer Michael Clancy knew who the titular party girl was. Mary (Parker Posey) is an amalgamation of the party girls Clancy — and screenwriters von Scherler Mayer and Harry Birckmayer — had encountered in real life, yet the character also feels utterly singular. Clancy’s costume design makes the character feel not only authentically ingratiated in the underground club scene but also timeless. Mary’s mix of stolen (at-times) designer pieces and thrifted vintage items shows the character emulating the high fashion magazines of the time in an attainable way. The party girl bounces from a Gautier sweater to a ratty sweatshirt worn as a bolero. Clancy creates looks that are marvelous spectacles but with pieces you could find at your local thrift store today.
If Michael Clancy’s wardrobe creates the look of the party girl, then music supervisor Bill Coleman crafts the settings she inhabits. As an influential manager, producer, and DJ, Coleman blended various genres of dance music to match the emotional landscapes of the character. Coleman was working with performers who were actually part of the scene that PARTY GIRL inhabits; he had his finger on the pulse of New York’s club culture.
In his interview with Fun City Editions, Coleman discussed needing to know where each and every song would be in the film so he could dial into the experience each character would be in the middle of — whether they were in a club or in their own apartment. The careful crafting of when each song is played is why the conclusion of the film with Ultra Naté’s “Party Girl (Turn Me Loose)” feels so rewarding. It is the thesis for knowing who you are and owning your party-girl identity.
Check out a selection of music from and inspired by the 1995 cult film, PARTY GIRL.
If there is any element that transcends the film’s ’90s milieu, it’s Parker Posey. “The Queen of the Indies” approaches Mary with such rigid effervescence it recalls the poise and wit of classic comedic actresses (think Carole Lombard or Barbara Stanwyck). But she is also the “it” girl of this New York club scene, her style loud, yet enviable. Parker Posey was actually involved in the clubs, the ballroom scene, the camaraderie of difference in ’90s New York. And PARTY GIRL has become synonymous with Posey. It’s a career-defining film that helped establish her persona and indie-queen legacy. Parker Posey was — and remains — a party girl.
Now more vibrant and colorful than ever, PARTY GIRL hits the screen in 4K, May 4–7, at AFS Cinema.