(What Did I Just Watch is a regular feature in every issue where we review movies that astound and confound us.)
I don’t think your punks need help from the outside to kill themselves.
And so a weird quote nestles inside the weirder film Liquid Sky (1982) made at the beginning of the weirdest decade which, in a stranger than fiction twist culminated in New York’s club kid murder. The movie is a semi-cautionary tale of androgynous models and performers who dance, take drugs, have sex, and then are killed by an alien living inside a craft the size of a dinner plate.
I’d love to have been at the pitch meeting. Co-writer and lead actress (and actor if you count her dual role as Jimmy, “the most beautiful boy in the world”) turns to co-writer and director Slava Tsukerman.
“Let’s make a movie with a continuous and relentless soundtrack made on one of those irritating kid’s pianos.” Slava nods, and jots down some notes. “Let’s fill it with stilted and random dialogue which we’ll say is cool and avant garde, and hire a bunch of actors who sound like the auto-cue is stuck.”
Slava interjects. “It needs some scenes at The Club where everyone looks like they’re having a seizure, no?” Anne agrees. “And the hippie professor gets to die first because, you know, it’s the 80s now and peace and love is just stupid or whatever.”
And so it continues. A helpful Teutonic scientist – from West Berlin, he wanted to make that perfectly clear, people, because we’re in the middle of a Cold War – has a theory. Aliens who look like bad Amiga graphics, are addicted to the chemical that the human brain produces when high or, get this, in the middle of an orgasm. They like eat it or something.
So a whole bunch of New York nihilists and narcissists who look like extras in a Steve Strange video are dropping dead all over the city post-coitus and then evaporating. Anne Carlisle’s anti-heroine Margaret, who spends the entire movie being assaulted, believes it’s the power of her, ahem, Lady Garden. The alien dinner plate on her roof glows from time to time. The soundtrack yelps and whines on. Lots of people take lots of drugs.
Where do these aliens come from? Why is the spacecraft so small? Why can no one act? It’s a shiny conundrum inside a glossy riddle in a slick enigma. Or, to give it its technical name – The Eighties.
In the real world of New York’s clubland, party monster Michael Alig dominated underground culture at venues like the Limelight with all-night raves and drug-fuelled excesses. No costume was too bizarre, no drug too powerful, no sexual preference too weird. A legion of club kids went on to greater things: RuPaul, James St James, Keoki, Chloe Sevigny, Lisa Edelstein. Alig brained his drug dealer with a hammer, injected him with Drano, and kept the chopped up body parts in a box for a month – much like our movie heroes with the hippie professor. They left with the dinner plate aliens. Alig did 17 years at Rikers Island and other penitential facilities.
Inexplicably the film has such a massive cult following and high marks on the likes of Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere that Tsukerman announced plans in 2014 for a sequel (coincidentally the same year that Michael Alig was released from prison). Liquid Sky won no less than five separate grand jury prizes at international movie festivals.
Clearly then, pretty much everyone was on drugs in the Eighties – and the tiny aliens on the roof just couldn’t cope with the workload and left them all alone to film and film again. Yay!