Hey folks, Jesse here, today I would like to talk about a Blu-ray release I recently watched from our friends at Vinegar Syndrome. The film is the 80s cult hit Liquid Sky. It’s an experimental art film that blends together an audio and visual experience that is heavily influenced by the 1980s New Wave art scene. What’s New Wave you might be asking? By definition, in cinema, it’s “a cinematic movement that is characterized by improvisation, abstraction, and subjective symbolism and that often makes use of experimental photographic techniques”.
In music, it is defined as, “popular music less raw than punk rock and typically including unconventional melodies, exaggerated beats, and quirky lyrics”. This movie hits those marks exactly even in the form of the fashion the characters wear. Honestly, Liquid Sky looks like they let David Bowie play dress up with the cast. There is a lot to see and hear in this movie and I can understand why it retains its cult status all these years later.
So, how was the movie?
The Movie Itself (3/5)
Liquid Sky takes place in New York City and mostly centers around the life of model/artist Margaret, playing a dual role by Anne Carlisle, who also plays drag as Margaret’s archenemy Jimmy. Aliens land on Margaret’s rooftop apartment and are on a desperate search to get high. These aliens have found out that they can harness the high when they kill someone that is under the influence. They came to the right spot because the scene they landed on is filled with Margaret’s friends and they definitely meet the requirements. Drug use is heavy in this movie. Everyone seems to be obsessed with cocaine in New York City back in 1982. The aliens seem to really like heroin as well and there are a few characters doing that as well.
Margaret is an artist and model. Her group of friends perform at a local club and her musician girlfriend has dreams of being a star and moving by to Europe. Her life is complicated and things at times get dark for her. As her life spins out of control the people she has sex with keep dying and things take a bad turn with her girlfriend. The movie focuses a lot of the paths of self-destruction. Everyone is just a few steps away from complete breakdown and no one really has any redeeming qualities. Although Margaret is resilient and a survivor it’s mostly at the fault of her own poor decisions that she has to be that way.
Anne Carlisle has the best performance in the film but overall the acting is what you expect from an 80s indie movie. It has the spirit of people who were committed to their roles and believed in the artistic direction. The alien part is a bit of a side story. The aliens are always watching it seems and waiting for their chance to absorb the drug-fueled essence of a junkie. There’s another interesting side story with an alien tracker.
The narrative jumps around between many of the characters and we see different stories coming together by the end. At first, I found the edits a little annoying but it started working for me once I started getting through the character progression. By the end, I found myself caring more for Margaret’s fate than I thought I would in the beginning.
Visuals/Picture Quality (5/5)
Thanks to our pals at Vinegar Syndrome I got to say that considering the original was shot for cheap on an old 35mm camera this came out fantastic. It’s free of any the aging it has endured over the years and looks fantastic on Blu-Ray. The picture was clear and I didn’t notice any dirt or damaging scratches. It was cleaned up very well and fans will really appreciate seeing the film as the filmmakers could only imagine it would be one day.
New Wave fashion is heavily represented here and with that comes vibrant, fluorescent colors. Especially the hot pink and neon yellows. They are sharp and bold. I should also mention a number of filters used when looking through the eyes of the alien. It was a nice use of a simple technique that would allow the aliens to have a heat sensing type of vision. Some sequences of the effects that were used would give someone on a drug trip a lot to contemplate about the color spectrum of the universe.
Score/Audio Quality (5/5)
The audio quality was up to Blu-ray standards. The sound was clear and without any noticeable level drops or scratchy dialogue. I have to say the score was probably my favorite part of the film and I’d probably listen to the soundtrack again if I can find it anywhere. New Wave in its beginnings was comparable to punk music. It was a counterculture movement allowing individuals to run against the grain of conformity. Except they put away the guitars and drums and picked up synthesizers and sequencers.
One of the performers uses her own heartbeat to create a rhythm for her song. I enjoy experimental music in any genre and New Wave brought in something new. I’ve noticed a trend of contemporary pop music finding its roots in the New Wave sound. Mark Mothersbaugh from the classic New Wave band DEVO even uses it in a number of movies he has done the score for including, “The LEGO Movie” and “Thor: Ragnarok. If nothing else check out the movie for an interesting audio experience.
Special Features (5/5)
The special features here are numerous and Vinegar Syndrome did a great job gathering all this stuff together. Inside you’ll find:
- Intro- a welcome to the restored version from the director. (1:23)
- Commentary- featuring director Tsukerman
- Booklet- an essay by Samm Deighan
- Interview- with Tsukerman the writer/director. He describes his inspiration and talks about his life in Russia before becoming a filmmaker. (15:46)
- Interview- with Star Anne Carlisle. She describes her early years as an art student and how she began her acting career. She talks some about her involvement in the club scene at the time. (9:46)
- Liquid Sky Revisited- a making-of documentary. Tsukerman recalls his inspirations for his art. He talks about Andy Warhol and how close the crew got during filming. (52:57) SD
- Q&A- In 2017, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY there was a conversation with an audience about the cult hit. Featuring Tsukerman, Carlisle, and co-composer Clive
Clive Smith. (37:19) SD
- Outtakes- random moments in the movie that were unused. No sound featured on any of these. (13:05) SD
- Alternate Opening- an unused opening for the film (9:59) SD
- Rehearsal Footage- a collection of the cast working on different scenes (11:56) SD
- Still gallery- a collection of pictures taken on set. (2:09)
- Trailers- #1 (:31) #2 (1:43) #3 (1:45) #4 (3:00)
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
- English DTS-HD Mono
Runtime- 112 minutes
- Blu-ray and DVD
- Disc Art
- Reversible Liner
- Clear Case
Liquid Sky Overall (4/5)
I’m giving the complete Blu-ray experience a 4 overall but this is mostly because of the music and the number of special features available. I liked watching the documentaries about making Liquid Sky at this time and you could tell it was a labor of love. I don’t usually like to see a lot of drug use in movies and there’s a lot of that in this movie. There are also multiple scenes of sexual assault which I also have a hard time watching in movies. This movie may resonate better with artists and people who appreciate surreal experimental filmmaking. Essentially, it’s a movie by weirdos for weirdos. Hmm… but I kind of liked it though…
If it seems like something you would enjoy, you can preorder now from Amazon. Liquid Sky releases April 24th.
That’s it for now but check back soon for my next review. I’ll be taking a look at the Warner Archive classic, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” newly released on Blu-ray. Any classic movie fans out there? This one was pretty cool with plenty of fun twists and turns from acclaimed director, Fritz Lang. See you then!