07 January 2019
This is certainly an obvious one; so obvious in fact it should have been one of the first entries in this FilmKlub section. I think it’s because I watched Liquid Sky randomly over a good number of years so that it was just sort of a staple. That and many other people I know have seen this film. Like me they probably watched it’s original VHS release, which have been known to be notoriously hard to find or just plain expensive. As we all got hurled into the noughties, the establishment of YouTube and other more dubious sites made it far more accessible whereby you could watch an obviously blurry and highly compressed version of the film. Even if you have never seen the film you’ve likely seen a lot of the imagery used in underground promotions, or passed around the network: Tumbler, blogs, etc.
Margaret is a fashion model with dreams of stardom, whose alter ego and rival, Jimmy, abuses and takes advantage of her to satisfy his rampant drug addiction. Unknown to them, tiny, invisible aliens have landed on the roof above the bohemian squalor in which they live and begin killing anyone Margaret has sex with to feed on their pleasure giving neurotransmitters. All the while, a German scientist attemptes to capture and study them.
And that’s the plot in a nutshell, as per the write-up about the film on the packaging of this re-issue. It’s a lot of visual imagery in that short paragraph, like some fantastical drug-adled vision you tell your friends at 6am in the morning. To some degree, yes, that’s what the film is about. For those that haven’t seen it, I’m not really going to go into the plot, characters or themes here. What brought me to giving Liquid Sky an entry here is having the chance to finally watched likely how the film was intended, on a very high-quality, restored version. No legendary VHS tapes. No strange online versions.
Watching a film numerous times you watch it for different reasons the more you watch it. In this case, I was interested in how the experience would be. For me it was like watching some sort of well-restored cinema classic rather than what is perceived to be a “B Movie”. All the cinematography really starts to shine and you start to take notice of how the film is framed and all the interesting cut shots. There’s one in particular where the sun is setting behind a skyscraper, almost looking like the end of THX-1138 when Robert Duvall is climbing out of the air shaft to the open air.
All of the neon lighting in Margaret’s apartment and in some of the club scenes starts to take on a weird, other-worldly quality. You start to notice background details in Margaret’s tiny penthouse apartment, including posters and advertisements on the back walls.
Overall you realise how well the film was storyboarded and shot given that it was an indie budget, created and acted by a group of people who met in underground clubs in NYC at the time. An odd mix of Russian emigrés and downtown club kids.
On top of the director, Slava Tsukerman, key members of the production crew were, Russian including cinemotographer Yuri Neyman and producer Nina V. Kerova. In the extras of this DVD there’s some nice extras for those keen on the film, including interviews, lots of rare photos and rehearsal footage. After watching these you get a sense of how DIY of a film it actually was, constrasted to the surprising result of what was produced.
Finally, the fractured jarring soundtrack gets extra depth and for that sounds the ever more menacing and paranoid. Composed in a time slot used to rent out a Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer, the soundtrack has become a bit of a collector’s issue itself. For some reason I thought it has been re-issued but perhaps that was all in a dream.
So you know that film you really like and have seen before? Give it another watch, with the highest quality possible, and see what new things come to you when you do.
Here’s a trailer for the film, and one of the better quality online ones out there: