Androgyny! Heroin! New Wave! Aliens! Just What Is This Liquid Sky, Tonight at AFA?

10/10/2011 1:00 PM |

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The filmmaker Slave Tsukerman will be at Anthology Film Archives tonight, presenting his cult film Liquid Sky.

Nearly thirty, fueled by heroin and synth, swaying between sci-fi and satire, Liquid Sky retains all its incongruous charms. Bright, loud, neon-bedaubed—and, in its own way, quite logical—Slava Tsukerman’s 1982 feature deserves a series of double-takes. The first comes early: new wave-ish wanna-be models Margaret and Jimmy leave the club to go to the apartment Margaret shares with her drug-dealer girlfriend Adrian (Paula Sheppard), where junkie Jimmy begins to ransack the place in search of Adrian’s stash.

Tall, icy-blonde, angular in shape and geometric in makeup, Margaret and Jimmy resemble their androgynous deity, Bowie, half as much as they do each other—naturally, since they’re both played by Anne Carlisle, whose delivery is so perplexing (is she serious? is she the unacknowledged patron saint of camp?) that Liquid Sky would be worth watching even if edited into solely Margaret’s monologues.

In a drawl so affected it comes back around as earnest, Carlisle takes on misogyny, 60s idealism, and heteronormative sexual practices: her only recourse in a movie where all other characters systematically abuse, degrade, and sleep with her—then die, crystals protruding from their heads.

And there’s the fun! Tiny aliens, duly observed by a German scientist from the top of the Empire State Building, have come to Earth in search of yummy euphoria—whether from smack or orgasms, they don’t much care. Their extraction process—which we see in thermo-vision—kills. Contemporary comparisons might name the truly alien The Room, but this is nothing like—prettier, weirder, decidedly referential and infinitely more entertaining, under glow-in-the-dark skin Liquid Sky is palpably human, caring deeply about something, hard as it may be to say what or why.