Invisible aliens in a tiny flying saucer come to Earth looking for heroin. They land on top of a New York apartment inhabited by a drug dealer and her female, androgynous, bisexual nymphomaniac lover, a fashion model. The aliens soon find the human pheromones created in the brain during orgasm preferable to heroin, and the model's casual sex partners begin to disappear. This increasingly bizarre scenario is observed by a lonely woman in the building across the street, a German scientist who is following the aliens, and an equally androgynous, drug-addicted male model. (Both models are played by Anne Carlisle, in a dual role.) Darkly funny and thoroughly weird.
Anne Carlisle ... Margaret / Jimmy
Paula E. Sheppard ... Adrian
Susan Doukas ... Sylvia, Jimmy's Mother
Otto von Wernherr ... Johann Hoffman the Scientist
Bob Brady ... Owen
Elaine C. Grove ... Katherine
Stanley Knapp ... Paul (as Stanley Knap)
Jack Adalist ... Vincent
Lloyd Ziff ... Lester
Harry Lum ... Chinese Food Deliveryman
Roy MacArthur ... Jack
Sara Carlisle ... Nellie
Nina V. Kerova ... Designer
Alan Preston ... Photographer
Wow, tough to say a simple few words about this movie. Liquid Sky is a rare film as it documents a time period in the USA when "post-punk" and "New Wave" were truly still underground. Liquid Sky is so easily compartmentalized into gay/lesbian cinema or a "cult classic" when it truly stands alone as a document of an era criminally under represented.
Roger Ebert who in my opinion really understands good cinema, gave this movie strong local press support in Chicago when it played at the Three Penny art Theatre in Chicago. The 3 Penny was across the street from the original Wax Trax record store on Lincoln Avenue which was another "power spot' of this post-punk/early new wave underground in Chicago. Ebert gave this movie a thumbs up and I think 3.5 stars upon the initial release. Ebert understands "dark" cinema which I think few see.
There are few movies in all of cinema that leave you with a "feeling" that Liquid Sky does at the end. By taking you correctly, intelligently into a world (Underground Clubs, Drug Scenes) that do exist, that few see. Donnie Darko is to me "in the ballpark" of the way Liquid Sky makes you feel at film's end.
The musical score (using the then very rare and expensive) Synclavier sampling keyboard was way ahead of it's time by perhaps 20 years. That along with the strong performances, is what makes Liquid Sky not just "weird' or "freak cinema" but something actually special.
If you were part of the New Wave or Post-Punk "underground" of 1981-1983 you will nod your head to what I am about to say: Liquid Sky is just about the ONLY movie that captures the "feel" of this period.
The rare Anne Carlisle! She-popped in with this magical tour-de-force performance and then basically disappeared from cinema. The only other easily obtainable performance of Carlisle is in the Miami Vice episode "Yankee Dollar" where she appears in the last 10 minutes of the episode as the wealthy heiress trying to save her husbands company via an illegal deal.
The DVD review! Wow!! The fact that some people really cared about this movie is seen in the DVD extras. The fact that just the movie made it to an official DVD is enough , but the extras where a huge shock. Actual beta video footage of test run thoughts of scenes. An initial opening 10 minute sequence that was edited to provide a different plot opening to the movie. TV spots, etc..
To use the word "cult classic" then every rare film like this should be treated to such extras on a DVD.
Not for "kids" , but I give Liquid sky a solid 10 out of 10 on the IMDb scale!
While some may see this movie as weird, the movie actually displays a real "truth" of what that scene was like 1981-1983 (minus the aliens of course). Watch Carlisle's monologue while putting on the make-up in the last 15 minutes of the film. You will not find a more "honest" speech about what happens when a girl moves from the country to depths of the inner city underground scene.
People I've shown or lent this film to on video tend to polarise into two groups - those who loathe it with an intensity bordering on the pathological (and see some of those comments on this site), usually finding it either incomprehensible or repellent; and those who find it fascinating and truly original.
The second group tend to watch it at least twice and usually more often than that. It is not a film that makes imminent sense on the first viewing. The narrative is so multi-layered that it takes two viewings to appreciate the connections between scenes and characters.
It is a film that you have to work at. And it is no less valuable because of that.
If you don't like it and can't make sense of it, then the loss is your own.
For those prepared to suspend belief it is a rare masterpiece of originality. True, the acting is patchy, but like the actors in Warhol films they do not seek to portray common or garden social characters that we recognise from everyday life, the stuff of mainstream cinema; but are personalities constructed at the extremities of social existence - the exceptions, misfits, and exiles. This makes them interesting in themselves.
The science fiction antecedents to the film probably lie in the literary work of William Burroughs as much as in film history. The same social actors are to be found - people searching for something on the edge of reality, where sex and drugs are pursued and traded, all in the name of obsessive self-interest or self-oblivion. Burroughs characters are often as repellent as the characters in this film. Often for the same reasons. The film centres on the ultimate in self-obsessed, self-absorbed, selfish humanity.
The same can be said for the alien invader. In fact the alien manifests all the same characteristics as the actors in the hip New York crowd. All are obsessed with their own personal needs and ambitions to the exclusion of all else. But whereas the humans are mortal and have an inconvenient habit of dropping dead, murdered by the alien at the point of sexual orgasm, the alien itself lacks physical form. It devotes its life to expanding its own consciousness. Heroin will do but a chemical secreted by the human brain during orgasm is even better.
This is no conventional science fiction film with a monster from out of space. The monsters are also the humans. The aliens are already amongst us.
All of this makes it sound like an argument in favour of the repellent view of the film. It isn't. It's intellectually challenging and morally demanding, true. But it's also visually stunning, original in concept, and an interesting social document on the post-punk fashion scene in New York at the time it was made.
Occasionally, very occasionally, a film is made that transcends the ordinary, everyday reality of commercial cinema. Even commercial science fiction. This is one of those very rare films.
Everything about it is unique. The characters, the dialogue, the music, and the social and economic context combine to create a world-view of extreme existence taken to its ultimate limits by the arrival of a creature from outer space. The creature somehow manages to extend the boundaries of existence of those already far, far out there on the very edge of social reality. In the closing scene the main character tries to become at one with the creature. We can only speculate as to whether she succeeds.
This one actually seems to have been made by and for aliens. Its view of humanity appears to be that of an onlooker from another world, dispassionately observing us. That's what makes it so different from the usual space alien movie.
Like it or not, you must admit that it's original. There is simply nothing else like it. Perhaps the closest thing is Repo Man. But Liquid Sky is even stranger than that.
This movie lays bare much of the pretense and affectation of our society, particularly those of the shallow, pseudo-intellectual crowd. The lack of any truly likable characters may turn off a lot of viewers, but to me it simply reflects the kind of people being depicted here.
From our perspective, twenty years on, it takes on a still different aspect. Here was life before AIDS, before 9/11 (including a shot of the World Trade Center), and before tattoos and body piercing became fashionable.
Forget ET and MIB. If you want to see a real alien movie, check this one out.