The time is the 80's. Everyone is either A. on cocaine, B. a rapist, or C. a model. Those who are class B and C. are also class A. Everyone is dressed like extras from "Flash Gordon" with more fish-net, and all the music comes out of a Casio. Two androgynous bi-sexual models named Adrian and Margaret compete in the New York fashion underground for who is cattiest bitch and the most stylish a$$. Both characters are played surprisingly well by the same actress, to heighten both the androgyny of "the scene" at the time, and the repetition. Margaret is the main character, described by her male incarnation Adrian as "...an uptight WASP c*#t from Connecticut.", bookending the film, but being largely absent from its mushy middle. Amidst the usual backstabbing, s*^t talking, runway stomping, and sexual assaults (virtually the only kind of intercourse the film displays) visitors from beyond the stars have also taken an interest in the sordid little events.
These aliens live in a tiny, largely invisible UFO, positioned on top of our heroines apartment where they can observe the events inside through a heavily pixilated color blur that resembles Chris Marker's invented film style "The Zone" from "Sans Soliel" or the heat vision the Rasta-lizard of "Predator" views the world through. This psychedelic point of view is repeated throughout the film, as the aliens are the most constant though silent narrators. Their interest in the Manhattan fashionista junky set comes from the same reason that so many are/were attracted to such places; the sex and the drugs. Human orgasm produces more chemical reactions in the brain than at any other time in life. The brain becomes the body's dealer, and the body explodes, shivers, and shrivels back to down to size, patiently awaiting or screaming for it's next fix. For tiny aliens the only drug in the universe better than our cum-chemical's, are these fluids when they come from the opiate riddled brain of a junky."The ancient Egyptians weren't afraid of euphoria", says a drug addled screen-writer in one of the films many inter-connected sub-plots.
Thus aliens begin turning up at the fringes of "punk sub-culture" where the junk-cum getting is good and no one cares if people go missing. "New Wave" models are the next evolutionary step forward (for one they have more money drugs). So the junkies wait around to score, and the aliens wait for the junkies to score with each other. Unfortunately there is no way for the aliens to extract these chemicals without killing those they take from, which to Margaret who is often being raped by whoever is spilling their seed, it's as if God himself has suddenly taken an interest in her life. Not enough of an interest to stop her from being raped, but enough to make the bodies of the bad men (and women) disappear after they have done their business. It doesn't take long before she realizes that sex with her leads to death. "Margaret: I kill with my c^*t.". This new sexual power gives her both confidence (to get revenge on those who abused her), and a renewed sense of alienation (what little sexual release and connection she did have is now impossible).
"Campy" is something of an understatement for describing "Liquid Sky", a film drenched head to day-glo toe in nihilist attitude, decadent fashion, disturbing sex, and surreal black humor. But also this campiness and seeming lack of "content" and seriousness make enough room for the moments of sincere cultural insight and emotional pathos to stand out in ways that would seem truly alien in a John Waters or Dusan Makavejev flick (two filmmakers "Liquid Sky" is indebted to).
The ending of the film once Adrian and Margaret's feud has come to a literal and figurative "head" (couldn't resist the pun
I'm a bad person) is also surprisingly and even unnecessarily sad and vulnerable than would be required of something this "tasteless". Imagine if at the end of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" Brad and Janet had a serious talk about their changing sexuality, or their stifling childhoods or something. And now imagine that scene being successful.
What would it be like to come to New York in the 80's from the suburbs? What would it be like to suddenly be surrounded by a never ending race for sensual pleasure and aesthetic perfection, where the tongues are either in your mouth or barbed, forked, and spitting venom at anything resembling "sentimental", or "soft"? What would it be like to thrive in this environment? Would it feel like being food for alien creatures, or would it feel it like feeding them. In a world built around the sexual image, would sex feel liberating, or just like another way to be used. "Liquid Sky" is an absurd pageant, but one not based completely in irony, it's cynicism is hard one from experience. Margaret's inevitable "falling in love" with the UFO, feels like a tragic romance, not a schlocky b-movie. The movie contains both styles in the end, and finds a parasitic way of letting one feed the other to make both aspects stronger. Who is top and who is bottom in this scenario is up to debate.
"Liquid Sky" is more of an "attitude" than a film, and I know how cheesy that sounds, but divorced from this attitude the performances fall flat. Devoid of the music the scenes would fall flat. Devoid of the humor the dialog would fall flat, and devoid of the dialog the film would fall flat. If any one part of this film were to be altered the rest would fall into chaos like a game of Jenga.
As it is they all balance each other out in "cult classic" bliss, which may indeed be more style than substance. Of course Adriane might say something like "substance is for ugly people who lack style", and who am I to argue.
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