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Sunday, April 15, 2018

LIQUID SKY -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle

I first saw Russian director Slava Tsukerman's 1982 avant-garde cult sci-fi classic LIQUID SKY back in the early 80s when it came out on VHS looking a heck of a lot cheaper and dingier than it does on Vinegar Syndrome's richly vivid new Blu-ray/DVD combo set (scanned and fully restored in 4k from the 35mm original negative and packed with special features).

Now, the film still looks low-budget but the talent and imagination that went into transcending that budget are allowed to shine through.  The visuals are a feast of 80s proto tech and economical cinematic imagination, all day-glo and neon and glam-punk and New Wave and ugly fashion and jaded cynicism set to robotic industrial music performed on a Fairlight. 

The setting is an urban milieu where sneering androgynous scarecrows get made up as though for Halloween so that they can express derision to either clicking cameras or their fellow drugged-out dance club denizens.

Our heroine, tall blonde beauty Margaret (co-scripter Anne Carlisle, CROCODILE DUNDEE, DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN), is one such model so disaffected by her lifestyle that any hint of normality now seems abrasively foreign.

Margaret is a victim not only of the lecherous men she invites back to her apartment simply because they have drugs--making her a victim also of her own flagrant self-destructiveness--but of the equally-violent, overbearing, profane, drug-pushing dyke Adrian (the great Paula Sheppard of ALICE, SWEET, ALICE) with whom she shares both a penthouse apartment and a sick, abusive relationship.

The main attraction of LIQUID SKY for me has always been Carlisle's exquisite dual-role performance as both Margaret and her nemesis, a preening male model named Jimmy with whom Margaret shares a mutual loathing.  Carlisle pulls off the feat of creating two intensely interesting and perversely compelling characters whose split-screen interactions are always utterly convincing and scintillating. 

But the weirdness really starts when tiny aliens land their spaceship on a nearby rooftop and start feeding off both the heroin-enhanced brainwaves of Margaret's visitors and also the chemical reactions caused by their orgasms, which proves lethal to them.  Thus, anyone who has sex with Margaret dies.

In this world the most appealing characters, for me anyway, are the more normal ones such as Margaret's older friend Owen, whose genuine concern for her makes him the first alien orgasm casualty, and Jimmy's indulgent single mother (to whom he is utterly dismissive except when begging for money) who lives nearby and is visited by an eccentric German scientist on the trail of the alien ship. 

It turns out her apartment window offers a fine telescope view of the tiny spaceship, giving her a chance to vainly try and seduce the man while he keeps an eye both on the ship and the lethal sexual activity going on in Margaret's apartment.  There's a mundane charm to their scenes that's a stark contrast to the infinitely stranger things going on elsewhere.

Meanwhile, our wacky nihilistic misfits continue courting death, a condition hastened by constant drug use--they live to snort and shoot up--and sexually-transmitted disease, upon which dwells much of the film's symbolism. 

Their casual cruelty to each other comes to the fore when they get together in the penthouse for one of their tacky, drug-fueled modeling shoots, during which Margaret's deadly new sexual side-effect will shock even these jaded louts of their curdled complacency in a big way.

LIQUID SKY is a low-key slice of wildlife that doesn't explode like THE FIFTH ELEMENT or mesmerize like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.  It's simply the story of an aimless New Wave waif named Margaret numbly wandering through a harsh world of hurtful people and some weird little aliens who help her by hurting them.  And watching it is like a dark but colorful carnival ride through a combination art gallery and spook house. 

TECH SPECS:Vinegar Syndrome/OCN Digital Distribution 
Genre: Cult/Science Fiction
Blu-ray/DVD Combo (2 Discs)
Original Release: 1982 Color
Rated: R
DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Running Time: 112 Minutes (Plus 160 Minutes Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price: $32.98
Pre-Order: April 3, 2018
Street Date:  April 24, 2018

Director’s introduction and commentary track
Interviews with Tsukerman and Carlisle
Alamo Drafthouse screening Q&A with Tsukerman, Carlisle and Clive Smith (co-composer)
“Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017), a 50-minute, making-of feature
Behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage
Never-before-seen outtakes
Isolated soundtrack
Alternate opening sequence
Photo gallery
Reversible cover artwork by Derek Gabryszak
Multiple trailers
English SDH subtitles


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