Although I first became interested in Liquid Sky when I was a teen in the mid-1980s (thanks Night Flight!), I only got the chance to watch it more recently. Waiting three decades to see Slava Tsukerman’s new wave cult masterpiece was totally worth it. The heady concepts that it tackles would have gone way over my head when I was 14, much like the tiny spaceship hiding out above Margaret’s penthouse apartment in the movie.
Seeing the fully restored 4K version of Liquid Sky on the big screen at Toronto’s Royal Cinema on March 16 was an even bigger and better revelation. As Neon Dreams Cinema Club programmer Brendan Ross mused before the screening, there has probably never been a Neon Dreams screening featuring as much neon as Liquid Sky.
Before The Royal’s screening, the audience was treated to a perfectly curated pre-show compilation of videos. This included Visage’s Steve Strange from Top of the Pops, Sparks’ “I Predict” (featuring Ron Mael in drag), Klaus Nomi’s “Total Eclipse,” and David Bowie performing “TVC-15” on Saturday Night Live… flanked by Klaus Nomi doing actual jazz hands and a stuffed poodle with a TV screen in its mouth.
The screening was co-sponsored by Queer Fear, a “screening series aimed at bringing the fiercest of horror’s skeletons out of the closet.” Queer Fear programmer Josh Dare talked about how important Liquid Sky has been to queer kids trying to figure out where they fit (or don’t) into the world.
He then introduced performances from Jupiter Darling & Kasper the Queer Ghost. These two are members of the Kunst Kids, a performance art group which describes itself as “a neue collective of drag and club kids.” Jupiter Darling gave a bittersweet interpretation of Anika’s “Go To Sleep,” while Kasper the Queer Ghost brought new life to Laura Branigan’s “Self Control.”
Then it was time for the main event. The new transfer of Liquid Sky looks and sounds stunning; anyone complaining that crappy VHS copies are somehow more “real” just doesn’t appreciate the art of filmmaking. Yet it’s not just the gorgeous colors and the prominent Fairlight CMI synth soundtrack that make experiencing Liquid Sky in the theater so significant.
The film’s savage wit sets it apart from anything else of that time period (and even the current time period). Once viewers wrap their heads around the bizarrely interconnected plot, they can truly appreciate how well Liquid Sky satirizes hipster culture, one which doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 30 years.
Yet Liquid Sky isn’t just riotously funny, it also makes the audience sympathize with the plight of its main character, Margaret. She suffers through three sexual assaults, copious verbal abuse, and is even criticized by her own girlfriend for being an “uptight WASP cunt from Connecticut.” Nevertheless, Margaret persists.
Liquid Sky is like nothing else you’ve seen, a gender-bending and genre-bending film if there ever was one. One might even call Liquid Sky a sci-fi rape revenge dramedy. If that sounds like something you might like, you should check out the film as soon as possible.