Liquid Sky

Director: Slava Tsukerman (also co-writer, co-producer). Starring: Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Otto von Wernherr, Bob Brady, Sousan Doukas. USA, 1982. Budget: $500,000. Box office: $1.7 mln. IMDb: 6.1. RT: 94%. My rating: 2.5/4. A crazy dive into the 80-s punk, new wave and fashion youth subcultures in New York with an unexpected alien visit.

– Young people with no faith in their heart must be punished; but there are more creative ways of doing that and such film as “Liquid Sky” is a prime example of this.
(Michelle King)

– Come on, teach me. Are you afraid? You’re right, because they’re all dead. All my teachers.
(Margaret, one of the film’s main main characters)

– I’m sorry, but duty is more important than shrimps.
Oh. Well, the duty is yours, the house is mine. And in my house, shrimps are more important than duty.
(The German scientist is being seduced)

Sometimes remembering the experience of watching a film provides more enjoyment than actual viewing, and Slava Tsukerman’s first foreign experience may be a good example of it (and, to some extent Alex Cox’ cult film “Repo Men” – both films share a lot in common, even if the latter is much an easier watch for an unexperienced viewer).

“And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself. And they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn’t it fashionable?”

The first 30-40 minutes of the film captivate you with its striking origininality, an attempt to express the feeling of alienation through real aliens and a dive into a sexual androgyny that was widely discussed in the media at the time. However, later the films starts to replicate itself, and the middle part is just overly long, even if the final episode proves to be quite a big satisfaction.

New wave and punk scenes that celebrated themselves, sex predation and drug addicts, sexual promiscuity and fashion industry, aliens and alienation – all these wonderful elements intertwine into one hallucinating mix in “Liquid Sky“. This independent film, created on a rather small budget ($500,000), quickly acquired a cult status among cinephiles of that time and was well received by American critics, and it’s no wonder – imagine Andy Warhol shooting some cheesy 50-s science fiction, because this is how “Liquid Sky” looks like.

“Me and my rhythm box! Me and my rhythm box!”

Glam and decadance. The film made a certain effect when released and was even profitable. Many call it a cult. Now, from my unbiased-2017-point-of-view the film seems to be slowly fading into oblivion, just like “Hardware“… However, if you browse across the web, there are various references to the film here and there, or even inspired photoshoots or mockery:

20171020_143906

The plot. A tiny alien spaceship (imagine the size of a salad bowl) lands in New York, right above the house or Margaret, once a well-behaving girl from Connecticut and now an aspiring bisexual model (by Anne Carlisle, who did a double role in the film). The bodiless visitors don’t interact with humans, their aim is unknown. However, a German scientist Johann, another alien in the Big Apple, seems to have a theory – invisible aliens thrive on a substance produced by the human brain during the orgasm, which they manage to extract from the victim, killing it in the process. Margaret, who is going deeper and deeper into the downward spiral of promiscuous sex and violence, grasps this concept quicky and starts to use it for her own benefit…

The film is shot in a totally deadpan manner with a little amount of humour. Apathy and indifference prevail the minds of this self-absorbed youth, and that is supported by a gloomy monotone synth soundtrack and flamboyant, acid colours and designs.

Worth watching?Liquid Sky” is a particular film, not in good or bad sense of the word. I love weird slow stuff. I enjoyed some early Harmony Korine’s film (“Gummo“). But with this… I felt that there was more style than substance, and that’s the case when you need to love the style to enjoy the film. So I cannot recommend it directly to anyone due to its prevailing sense of otherness and dazzling individuality – decide by yourself. Played mostly by non-professional actors and shot by newly arrived in New York Russian immigrants-filmmakers (hence the dominating sense of an alienation, probably?), it’s a time capsule of the New York club scene of the 80-s and shows many kinks many of us could’ve never imagined, and does it from an unusual perspective. Finally, this is why we watch the movies, isn’t it?

“Liquid Sky” is one of the favourite films of Nicholas Winding Refn (who directed one of my all-time favourites “Drive“, plus he did a confusing flick called “The Neon Demon“…), among “Suspiria“, “Videodrome“, “La Dolce Vita” and some others. All these movie are well-known for their style domination. Have you seen anything the Danish director did? 😆

Spectacularity: 2.5/4
Acting:  ?
Directing: 2/4
Originality: 4/4
Final vote: 2.5/4

P. S. Здесь красочное интервью на русском языке.

23 thoughts on “Liquid Sky

    • It’s a weird film, but if you search through various top lists this film often appears there… For example, BFI (British Film Institute) has an awesome app dedicated exclusively to sci-fi. I have it on my android tablet (the app works offline) – it has about 40 classic sci-fi films with photos, info and reviews, from the 1920-s to the 2010-s. Check it too, it’s beautifully designed! ☺ Although I don’t know if there is an ios version. So, among these there’s Liquid Sky too 😊 Although I didn’t find it through them, don’t really remember now… I have watched it for the first time years ago. And also it was made by Russian emigrants too 😊

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      • Yes indeed me too. Anything I’m going to watch I try to have a complete embargo on 🙂
        Much to the joy of my family as when in the cinema a trailer comes on for something I will watch I drop my head close my eyes and try any means necessary to block out sound lol…… Blade Runner was beautiful I thought. Really enjoyed and I hope to be going back for a second viewing Monday 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hate trailers. I really don’t understand why so many people are obsessed with them nowadays! I mean, there are definitely some occasions when the trailer may help (maybe some little known movies), but for the most part…

        Especially big budget stuff. Everybody knows what to expect from the next Marvel movie, Jurassic World etc., I don’t thinkthat the decision to watch the movie or no is based on the trailer, in most cases. Hype.

        P. S. Do you remember the film Drive? I was just reading here https://ghezalplusmovies.com/2017/02/19/nostalgiad-review-drive-2011/ about how one woman tried to sue the distribution company because the film’s trailer promoted it as something similar to Fast & Furious while in fact it was closer to a meditation… 😆😆😆

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow what a great article, like the quote “I firmly believe this woman is a moron.” lol. Best bet is not to watch them. I will if it’s something I’m not going to watch at the cinema and not fussed about, prime example, Kong Skull Island. The trailer was ace and much better than the film.
        I can’t see why anyone would want to see the whole film in a trailer… Weirdly Jurassic Park, the first film, got it right in their first trailer. They had a whole scene which wasn’t used in the film. The finding of the mosquito in the amber…. All you need for trailers is a few smashes in the face with bass and music and a few choice images and you’re like, fuck man I gotta see this.

        ps I loved Drive and the music. Waiting for the right time to re-visit that one.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Liquid Sky looks a bit rough around the edges from a technical standpoint (no doubt for budget reasons). But it’s probably more original and daring than 90% of today’s Hollywood releases!

    I’ve seen most of Nicolas Winding Refn’s filmography, he has a rare talent for visual storytelling. Check out Pusher (1996) when you can. I consider it among his top 3 films, together with Neon Demon and Drive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, technically Liquid Sky is far from being impeccable, the same can be said about the screenplay and other things.

      Thanks for the advice. Will definitely check it out. I’ve seen only Drive (multiple times though) and Only God Forgives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Sometimes remembering the experience of watching a film provides more enjoyment than actual viewing..” Well said. I think I’d describe my recollections and viewings of most European New Wave films that way (e.g. Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Goddard, etc.), as well as most films I watched in my undergrad film courses.

    Liquid Sky seems like it would fit amongst those pictures, which is perhaps a good and bad thing. The idea of an immigrant expressing their alienation or segregation or general “not fitting in” through a sci-fi premise like this sounds creative, though based on your descriptions, perhaps it runs out of steam over a feature-length narrative. Is it easy to find online?

    Liked by 1 person

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