Liquid Sky

liquid-sky-rev Liquid Sky  (1983)    Cinevista/Sci-Fi    RT: 112 minutes    Rated R (strong sexual content throughout, brief nudity, rape, pervasive language and drug use, some violence)    Director: Slava Tsukerman    Screenplay:  Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Nina V. Kerova    Music: Slava Tsukerman, Clive Smith and Brenda I. Hutchinson    Cinematography: Yuri Neyman    Release date: April 15, 1983 (US)    Cast: Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Susan Doukas, Otto von Wernherr, Bob Brady, Elaine C. Grove, Stanley Knap, Jack Adalist, Lloyd Ziff.    Box Office: $1.7 million (US)

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 I remember when film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewed Liquid Sky on their show in ’84 (the clip is available on YouTube). They both gave it a thumbs down, calling it “boring” and “unpleasant”. It looked interesting to me but alas, I knew I wouldn’t get to see it at the movies because that kind of movie never goes into wide release. It’s a low-budget (made for $500,000) independent film set amidst the punk rock/bohemian subculture in New York City. It doesn’t feature any big-name stars. Sex, drugs and aliens from outer space figure prominently into the plot. It’s a weird movie, the kind that never plays outside the arthouse circuit. Thanks to my alarmist parental units, I wasn’t able to travel into the city alone to see these movies and there’s no way either of them would have sat through the ones I wanted to see. They wouldn’t have made it through five minutes of Liquid Sky before getting up and walking out. Thank God for VCRs. I finally got to see it in summer ’87 and I LOVED it! It’s funny, original and absolutely brilliant.

 liquid-skyModel/performance artist Anne Carlisle stars as Margaret, an aspiring model targeted by aliens for her active sex life. A small alien spacecraft has landed on the roof of the penthouse apartment she shares with her lover, performance artist Adrian (Sheppard) who does a number called “Me and My Rhythm Box” at a club the main characters frequent. They’ve come to Earth in search of heroin, a drug that’s plentiful on the early 80s punk rock scene in New York. However, they find something they like better. It seems the brain produces endorphins with similar properties to heroin during an orgasm. The aliens lay in wait until one of Margaret’s lovers has an orgasm and extract the endorphins, killing the person in the process. This is all observed by Johann Hoffman (von Wernherr), a scientist from Germany who knows all about the aliens. He watches from an apartment across the way belonging to a lascivious woman named Sylvia (Doukas) who also happens to be the mother of Margaret’s main nemesis, an androgynous model named Jimmy (also played by Carlisle).

 At first, Margaret is freaked out but comes to appreciate what’s happening to her sexual partners, two of whom are rapists. At one point, she declares, “I kill with my c--t.” It’s one of my all-time favorite movie lines. Liquid Sky is everything a low-budget independent movie should be. It’s raw, ragged and rough. It has a shabby look and gritty feel to it, perfect for the specific subculture that constitutes this movie’s setting. The special effects are cheap-looking but still a step or two above Ed Wood’s hubcap flying saucers in Plan 9 from Outer Space. The score consists of a series of synthesizer music pieces which give the movie an eerie feeling. The acting, although amateurish, is very good for this type of movie. Carlisle does a great job in her dual role. I LOVE that she plays both genders. It’s put together in a rather slapdash manner. It has none of the polish and sheen of a Hollywood production which is precisely the point. All the things that would ordinarily make for a bad movie work in Liquid Sky’s favor.

 Independent filmmakers like Slava Tsukerman, who directed, co-wrote the script AND helped compose the score, have more creative leeway than the ones working for major studios. There’s no way any major studio would touch a movie like Liquid Sky. It’s too strange for mainstream audiences. Me, I LOVE that it’s so strange. It’s the kind of movie you see at a small downtown theater at midnight. It occupies the same realm as Repo Man and The Brother from Another Planet. Oh, it’s dated, that’s for sure. The clothes and interior decors scream early 80s boho-punk culture, not to mention the free-wheeling sex and drug use common in the pre-AIDS era. I can’t praise Liquid Sky enough. The storyline is very original and that counts for a lot. I highly recommend it for connoisseurs of cult flicks and weird movies.  

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