“Liquid Sky” has a pre-apocalyptic feel of the Cold War sci-fi with the slickness of much more expensive films like its contemporary “Blade Runner,” but the budget (about a half-million) nearly sparked a mutiny. “The crew was paid very little and they did revolt at one point over the food,” Carlisle says. “They were worked day and night. We worked terrible hours. That the film got made at all was a miracle. It was really — at one point, I was arguing with them, we’re making art here and you’re worried about food. And he said you’re making art here. We want pizza!”
Unlike Ridley Scott’s film, “Liquid Sky” was shot through with a kind of self-deprecating, New York Jewish humor. A rumpled, hapless professor (the lanky Otto von Wehnherr) is on the trail of the alien spacecraft and bumbles his way through the jaded world, where few believe or even care that there might be visitors feeding on the heat of human sexual climax. They’re fixated on their next score, or on Chinese take out.
The film, released in the summer of ’82 at media-heavy film festivals, beginning in Montreal, quickly became a minor sensation. This was the height of the second British cultural invasion (Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran) which was of a piece with Carlilse’s androgyny and gear. It played at the Waverly Theater in New York City for about four years and Carlisle became a star, posing in and out of male drag for (warning: link NSFW) one of Playboy’s strangest photo shoots.
However, neither Carlisle nor Tsukerman let go of Margaret. Carlisle wrote a novel based on her character and Tsukerman began piecing together material designed to document the making of the film, whose status as both a prescient New York story and a fashion touchstone has grown over the years (a Liquid Sky boutique on Manhattan’s Lafayette Street operated for a while). The soundtrack by the un-trained Tsukerman — loud, atonal but funky — inspired the more abrasive elements of the Electroclash movement of the late ’90s.
Innovative and influential as it is, one would assume that Liquid Sky is in the queue to become part of the permanent collection of the Criterion Editions or even MOMA, but in reality the original 35 mm film stock is decaying. “We need money,” Carlisle says. Tsukerman is racing time to raise the funds to restore the film, planning both a crowdfunding endeavor and completion on the documentary. Meanwhile there’s a sequel in the works — its working title is “Vagina Warriors.”
“We’re writing the script,” says Tsukerman. “We’ve stayed friends.” Carlisle is guarded about the story, but will say, “Margaret comes back and she changes other women.”
Liquid Sky is one of the most visually ambitious films ever made about fashion, heroin, New Wave clubs, UFO saucers, ordering Chinese food and having them put it on your tab, the Empire State Building, androgyny, neon and tin foil. The 1982 cult classic may be the perfect embodiment of camp. Unlike contemporary low-budget cinema, which prizes an aesthetic of apathy, Liquid Sky makes its efforts visible. Judgmental fashion reporters cackle straight into the camera. Catwalk scenes take place in rooms both comically small and accurately sized to real New York spaces. And the slang-heavy dialogue, which the director Slava Tsukerman credits largely to the main actress and co-screenwriter Anne Carlisle, is bold and delightfully stilted:
"So I was taught that I should come to New York, become an independent woman. And my prince would come, and he would be an agent, and he would get me a role, and I would make my living waiting on tables. I would wait—till thirty, till forty, till fifty. And I was taught that to be an actress, one should be fashionable, and to be fashionable is to be androgynous. And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself. And they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn't it fashionable? Come on, who's next?" --Margaret
Note: Click Here For James Ramsay Interview / Chat With Liquid Sky Director Slava Tsukerman