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Liquid Sky (1982)

Vinegar Syndrome
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/24/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/16/2018

When it comes to forming opinions about movies, there is a lot to judge. But, one of the most basic questions is, do you examine a movie for its specific attributes, or judge it as a whole? Some people will break down the acting, writing, editing, music, and look of the film and rate each accordingly. While others will simply make a blanket statement about a movie, stating that they either liked it or didn't like it. (And then there are those classic movies which you just love, but can't put into words why.) Liquid Sky is a movie could have either effect on an audience. However, it may be a film which needs to be expertly dissected.

Liquid Sky takes place in Manhattan and centers on an apartment which is shared by Margaret (Anne Carlisle), a model, and Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard), a performance artist and drug dealer. Margaret is sought after for new-wave fashion shows and everyone wants a piece of her, save for her bitter rival, Jimmy (also played by Carlisle). A spaceship about the size of a manhole cover lands on the roof of the building and begins to send out sonic waves. The ship reacts when people in the building have sex and the results are quite disconcerting to Margaret. Meanwhile, Johann (Otto von Wernherr) arrives in town, hot on the trail of the UFO. He's arrived just in time, as Margaret to beginning to suspect that something quite odd is happening in her building.

Released in 1982, Liquid Sky is one of those movies which captures the zeitgeist of a certain era. Punk and glamrock were beginning to wane and the new wave of music and fashion was taking over Manhattan. Director Slava Tsukerman, Carlisle, and Costume Designer Marina Levikova-Neyman don't hold back in giving the movie a very edgy look. The clothes feature bold color and odd angles. The makeup is heavy and odd, bordering on kabuki at times. The total atmosphere of the film captures a time when people felt very free to be androgynous and experiment with different looks and personalities. Much like 1983's Valley Girl did for California at the time, Liquid Sky gives us a view of people who were living on the edge in New York City.

But, while Liquid Sky may work well as a cultural time-capsule, it doesn't fare as well as a movie. For every thing that the movie does right, it does two things wrong. Following a decade of making documentaries, this was Tsukerman's first attempt at making a narrative feature and we can certainly feel the growing pains. For starters, the story is basically non-existent (which is why the above synopsis feels so disjointed). If nothing else, this movie is about how everyone wants to have sex with Margaret. Other than that, we just get a lot of scenes where people either talk about nonsense or they argue. The editing style here is insane as every scene and I mean every scene is intercut with another scene. The height of this comes early in the film where footage of a plane landing (which we will later learn is carrying Johann) is spliced together with a scene involving a conversation. So, just imagine a movie which keeps cutting to a plane for no obvious reason. The narrative does gel somewhat in the last few minutes, but it's certainly not worth sitting through a nearly 2-hour movie to get to. The film's score is a grating electronic mess which sounds like 8-bit video game music being played by Piano Cat (RIP).

One other thing which struck me about Liquid Sky is how tame it seems by today's standards. This was a film which I'd read about for years, but had not seen, and the descriptions would always include words like "sex", "lesbians", and "drugs". Drugs are certainly discussed and there are lesbians, but the film gets weird in the sex department. Most of the sex featured here skews more towards rape, so it certainly isn't sexy. And, there really isn't any nudity. I wasn't expecting porn by any means, but there is more sex in most horror movies from this period. We do get some very rough language here though.

On a visual level, Liquid Sky has the chance of having appeal. It's clear that Tsukerman and Director of Photography worked to give the movie a specific look and they don't miss a chance to show that they are in Manhattan. And, as noted above, the film certainly does a great job of capturing a specific time in fashion history. But, the movie fails as a movie and if you approach it looking for a story, appealing characters, logic, or friendly editing, you will be sorely disappointed.

Liquid Sky must have been assaulted as a child on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. Given the film's age and budget, I can only assume that Vinegar Syndrome put a lot of work into this presentation. The Disc features a new transfer scanned and fully restored in 4k from the 35mm original negative. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and scant defects from the source materials. The real star here are the colors, which are rich and bold, most notably the reds. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which runs at 96 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There is no hissing or popping on the track. The dialogue and sound effects are well-balanced and don't fight for dominance. Unfortunately, the music comes through loud and clear.

The Liquid Sky Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. The film can be viewed with an INTRODUCTION from Director Slava Tsukerman (90 seconds). Tsukerman also provides an AUDIO COMMENTARY. "Interview with Slava Tsukerman" (16 minutes) (which was done at the same time as the introduction) allows the filmmaker to talk about his career, his views on movies and the making of Liquid Sky. "Interview with Anne Carlisle" (10 minutes) allows the person who basically carries the movie to discuss how she got into movies and what lead her to Liquid Sky. "Liquid Sky Revisited" is a 53-minute documentary which features comments from Tsukerman, Carlisle, Producer Nina V. Kerova, Actress Susan Doukas, Actor David Ilku, Costume Designer Marina Levikova-Neyman, Director of Photography Yuri Neyman, and Makeup and Hair Designer Marcel Fieve. This piece explores the origins and production of the film, paying particular attention to the look of the movie. We get some on-set stills here, as well as some audition footage. "Q&A from the 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers Screening" (37 minutes) features Tsukerman, Carlisle and Musician Clive Smith discussing the film in front of an audience. We get a 13-minute reel of OUTTAKES which is simply additional footage with no dialogue. "Alternate Opening Sequence" (10 minutes) offers additional shots from the fashion show dressing room. There is a 12-minute reel of "Rehearsal Footage" which shows the actors practicing their scenes. The extras are rounded out by four TRAILERS for the film and a STILL GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long