Friday, August 15, 2008

Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman, 1982)

An intense tingling sensation slowly crept through the icky confines of my sexy body as I basked in the neon glow of this groundbreaking masterwork by Soviet emigrate Slava Tsukerman. The early eighties film managed to turn me into a blithering three-armed baby with only one sock through the sheer power of its brash fucked-up temperament. A flamboyant potpourri of science fiction, portable rhythm boxes, leggy fashion victims, overweening synthesizers, unidentified flying dinner plates, irregular makeup, vaginal homicide, and crypto-feminism, Liquid Sky is the personification of cinematic perfection. A film experience so bizarre, and so original, that it makes all other films seem like rancid badger piss by comparison. I'm sure all the super-terrific people out there who are absorbing these typed words know exactly what I'm talking about. But if you need a refresher course: the film follows the voguish adventures of a fashion model named Margaret and her constant struggle to keep unromantic junkies from defiling her well-trafficked vagina with their pockmarked penises. Things begin to get weirder for the sylphlike Margaret when a mysterious saucer-like object lands on top of the roof of her Manhattan penthouse. The new wave fashion model doesn't notice the discus on her roof (it's roughly about the size of Lydia Lunch's diaphragm circa Stinkfist), but she does begin to notice that all the men that have entered her sporadically-moisturized penis passage as of late have died during their climaxes (early cunt-based casualties end up with a small crystal protruding from their skull).
She thinks her genitals is cursed, and rightfully so. But Johann (Otto von Wernherr), the gangly West German scientist who just arrived in town, knows better, as he's been watching her through his telescope from the building across the street. You see, the alien creature originally came to New York City because of its abundance of heroin users, but it has quickly discovered that the chemical produced by the human brain during orgasm is just as potent.
Observing Margaret from the apartment of Sylvia (Susan Doukas), a genial single gal with an insatiable appetite for jumbo shrimp and foreign men, Johann watches a steady stream of junkies, college acting teachers, journalists, fashion designers, hair stylists, photographers, drug dealers, and domineering lesbian nightclub singers come and go from Margaret's penthouse.
Giving one of the most complex and fascinating performances ever to be captured on film, the statuesque Anne Carlisle is flat-out hypnotic as Margaret, "an uptight cunt from Connecticut." Vulnerable, yet scrappy, and leggy as hell, Anne turns Margaret into a role model for little girls the world over, especially in the scene where she stalks the dance-floor looking for that diminutive coke dealer/rapist/soap actor.
The sublime Miss Carlisle not only co-wrote the screenplay, but she also plays Jimmy, a male model who loves to sneer and snort cocaine (I adored the way he snorted coke off the smooth side of a dartboard during the rooftop fashion shoot). The duel role leads to many great scenes where Anne gets to act with her male counterpart (she even has a sex scene with herself ala Divine in Female Trouble).
A brash and in your face Paula E. Sheppard (Alice, Sweet Alice) is a spunky delight as the diminutive Adrian, a drug dealer/performance artist. She brought an interesting balance to Anne Carlisle's work with her brazen portrayal of one severely pissed off individual. When she is not spouting cock and pussy-based insults at strangers, the garrulous little scamp likes to fuck the faces of the recently deceased and sing about the dependability of her rhythm box.
Which brings me to one of the greatest scenes in movie history: that being Paula's performance of "Me and My Rhythm Box" at the famous Danceteria nightclub in New York. A mind-blowing spectacle that literally drilled a hole in my head and proceeded to caulk it up with layers of pristine awesomeness. You can just feel her conviction as she extols the virtues of her rhythm box with the deadest of deadpan expressions on her face. The reaction on the audience during her execution of this minimalist masterpiece reminded me of the crowd at a Chris and Cosey concert I attended back in 1991. They were passive, but tragically hip, the audience gently swayed to the pulsating beat.
I swear, you could have eaten their nonchalance up with a freaking spoon.

Taking place smack dab in the middle of New York City during the whole glow-in-the-dark makeup craze of '82, the highly chromatic film is a dizzying array of loud fashions and bubbling synths. Costume designer Marina Levikova has created some of the most outré outfits I've ever seen. She is also responsible for the film's production design, so her work on Margaret's neon-infused apartment should be commended as well. The film's score is magnificent. Synthesizer-assisted coos of pleasure were spewing from my psyche as it clumsily chugged along. And it's 100% electronic!
The reason it felt like I was staring directly into a reflective pool as I watched the chromatic tawdriness unfold was because this movie is me. It represents everything I believe in and hold sacred in this gauzy world; a world where everyone is either gay or strung out on heroin. A subversively-coiffed universe that celebrates outlandishness with a techno-punk panache, this is where I want to spend the rest of my life.



  1. i commented here so you would know 'twas i. :)

    if you still don't know, it's chris from rt! i've just created a blogger thingy, and damned if i can't figure out how the hell this site works. my mind has been numbed by years and years on rt. it seems completely irrational for a site to work at all differently from rt. i am lost. help!

    soon, we can flick talk again! we used to.


  2. Oh man, I didn't realize other people in the world actually watched and enjoyed Liquid Sky. It honestly gave me one of the most exciting ideas (I think) for a porno ever. I haven't come up with a plot yet, but the mechanics of it are based around two people starting out with glow make up on their faces and having it smear over and reveal different body parts as the scene goes on.

    My friend and I spend all of our time looking for more crazy/B/exploitation/interesting/cheesy moies to watch and this thing is a veritable well written treasure trove. Awesomesauce <3

  3. About time someone singled out Paula Sheppard's Rhythm Box.

    This film captures a milieu like no other.

  4. When I saw this movie in the late 80s I was just young enough to think Jimmy was actually a dude. I thought he had a sexy David Bowie vibe. About two thirds of the way through though I realized he was indeed a girl and then I spent the next 48 hours wondering if I was a lesbian.

    The late 80s were tough...

  5. "When I saw this movie in the late 80s..."

    I wish I had seen Liquid Sky during the 1980s. :(

  6. Seeing Liquid Sky @ midnight at the Waverly twin was one of my fondest memories of the 80s. I recently found a decent DVD with a lot of cool extras---AND even found the novelization, written by the star! In many ways this was the LAST of the golden-era of midnight cult films.

  7. Funny, I just watched a Q&A session with Slava Tsukerman and three of his other members of his crew on youtube like ten minutes ago.

    I saw the cover of the Liquid Sky novel posted on a blog recently. But I had no idea it was a real book.

  8. I saw this in downtown Kalamazoo MI at the LeBijou theater about ten times. I have the novelization which is weirder than the movie and the soundtrack on cassette. It still plays.

  9. Finally saw Liquid Sky 30 years after first wanting to! The DVD with extras is fabulous and I laughed out loud when watching the trailers and imagining/remembering being 14 and how fascinated I was with it. I have no idea what I would have been expecting at the age, but the costumes, hair, legs, makeup, electronic music, abstruse dialog and (did I mention) legs are the obvious attraction even now. This would probably have scared the living crap out of me had I actually seen it, what with all it's vagina dentata talk; so finally seeing it now was just perfection. Thanks Yum-Yum for inspiring me to revisit all the films I never saw or caught only once. I hope the dentist treats your vagina with a firm but kind hand.

  10. Oh crap! Anne Carlisle in a Playboy article about Liquid Sky!!!

  11. If there's one film that I would want to inspire people to watch, it's definitely this one. :)

  12. I got half-way through it, but for some reason it just made me feel so overwhelmingly sad. I had to turn it off.

  13. Well, I've been in "a mood" since I had my heart broken by a leggy lesbian about a year ago. And then a leggy blonde who wore knee high spiked boots with shiny buckles before that. I'm an idiot.

    I'll try re-watching this sometime soon.

  14. Heartbreak is tough, leggy heartbreak is even tougher.

  15. Great review!

    We're linking to your article for No Wave Wednesday at

    Keep up the good work!