Friday, June 14, 2019

Liquid Sky

Liquid Sky
Slava Tsukerman

Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is a drug-addicted model who finds a rival in Jimmy (also Anne Carlise). Some aliens in a small flying saucer land on a nearby building to observe Margaret. They have the nasty habit of killing anyone she has sex with in order to harvest their endorphins.

Liquid Sky is a great antidote to the saturation of retro 1980s imagery. It has sound and imagery that would become more commercialized in the coming years, but here the synth sounds are sharp and angular, the looks are tribal and aggressively androgynous. This isn’t the user-friendly nostalgic 1980s, this is something much more raw. It’s easy in the twenty-first century to look at the early 1980s, New Wave, and the fashions of this era and wonder how this was ever edgy or daring, but Liquid Sky shows you exactly how that could be true.

SAUCERS SEEN OVER NEW YORK (looking for drugs.)
At nearly two hours long, it can seem like a slog if you are expecting a traditionally structured film. This is not a plot-driven movie, it is an exploration of people who are alien to themselves being observed by beings human and otherwise. It occupies the space between a genre film and an art film. The science-fiction elements mostly occur at the edges of the narrative until they provide the means for a psychedelic finale. The real draw of Liquid Sky is in its uneasy and often sinister atmosphere, this is a film where you don’t just watch, you also bathe in its radiation.

Anne Carlisle is amazing in her dual role as Margaret and Jimmy, two characters who loathe one another yet seem unable to escape each other’s orbit. It is through this dual role that the film also explores some distinctly queer territory with bisexuality and androgyny. Bob Brady as Owen the sketchy drama teacher and Otto von Wernherr as the scientist Johann Hoffman both provide some interesting moments as characters who exist outside the drug/art circle of Margret and treat it like some alien biosphere. There is a recursion of outside observers here Margaret > Aliens > Hoffman > The Audience. Once Margaret becomes aware of her position, she and the film cease to exist. The nihilism at the core of Liquid Sky is exposed.

Artists Only
A major element of Liquid Sky is its sound. The music alternates between a raw analog synthesizer and carefully laid atonal drones. The end result is a sound that drives home the strange plastic existence of these characters, it underscores their distance from themselves and each other, but at the same time, there is something angry underneath trying to burst through the heroin and cynicism.

Liquid Sky is a stunning work of art/cult/SF film and I think it is essential viewing for not only grasping the alienation taking hold in popular culture during the 1980s but also as a solid piece of midnight cinema. There is nothing quite like it, and although it is hackneyed to say something is an ‘experience’, Liquid Sky is just that, a unique experience worth having.

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