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Film / Liquid Sky

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Liquid Sky is an incredibly strange 1982 science fiction film. The plot revolves around Margaret (Anne Carlisle), a bisexual model and performing artist living in a neon-lit, New Wave apartment with her partner and fellow performance artist, Adrian (Paula E. Sheppard) - who is also hoarding and dealing a substantive amount of heroin. Besides Adrian, Margaret has a number of other sexual encounters with the often sleazy men and women she meets through the local alternative nightclub scene, as well as a tense on-and-off rivalry with the androgynous model Jimmy (also Anne Carlisle), an addict living high off of Adrian's supply.

Unbeknownst to the protagonists, aliens have landed on their rooftop, and are inhabiting Margaret's mind and body in order to feed on human pleasure from sex and drugs. Things then begin to get much weirder - and much, much deadlier for everyone involved.

One of the signature features of Liquid Sky is its abrasive, dissonant experimental-electronic musical score, which sporadically appears as a re-release (usually with a steep price of sale) from various alternative record labels.

The film - both its music and its visuals - went on to become an inspiration for much of the contemporary Drag and Fetish scenes, as well as several genres and scenes of electronic music including Electroclash and Minimal Synth.

Tropes Found In This Film Include:

  • Alien Catnip: It's suggested the aliens feed on human pleasure. It's not made clear if this is just because they get high off of it, or because it contributes to their survival.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In spite of his cold and sinister personality, Jimmy is incredibly popular, and has "all the mannerisms of a sex symbol." Margaret enthusiastically takes up on his offer to have sex, and the reporters of both sexes near the end of the film clearly find him attractive.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Does the spaceship finally decide to take Margaret with in some form, or is she simply dead of an overdose while the spacecraft abandons her?
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Jimmy makes a very big point of preferring men, and offers Margaret an encounter mainly for access to Adrian's heroin stash. At the end of the movie Margaret kills Jimmy by giving him an orgasm, but it's not clear how much is physical stimulation as opposed to genuine sexual attraction. (Anne Carlisle, the actor who plays both Margaret and Jimmy, has stated that she reads Jimmy as exclusively gay).
    • A reporter interviewing both Margaret and Jimmy is mentioned to be gay. One of his opposite-sex colleagues notes with a satisfied grin that he's not gay all the time.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Near the end, is the tension between Margaret and Jimmy based on mutual lust, or is Margaret simply eager to use her newfound power to off her insufferable rival?
  • Asshole Victim: The men (and women) eaten by the aliens at the moment of orgasm are mostly rapists.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: The final encounter between Margaret and Jimmy is portrayed as an intense competition with overtones of mutual lust. Noticeably, this is one of the very few encounters in the film where Margaret seems as into the buildup as the other partner involved (since several of these take the form of someone pressuring or forcing themselves on Margaret - even her own long-term live-in partner Adrian).
  • Bisexual Love Triangle: The film builds up a lot of time teasing the idea that Margaret is in one with Adrian and Jimmy.
  • Bury Your Gays: Taken at face value, the film has a Downer Ending in which the openly queer protagonist dies, as do her bisexual lover and lesbian live-in partner - although with that said most of the assumedly heterosexual characters aren't spared either. Tellingly, critics often attribute the film with metaphorically predicting the prevalence of AIDS in the years following its release.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Margaret is bisexual and in a relationship with a woman; Adrian is either lesbian or bisexual; Jimmy states that he prefers men but expresses some interest in women. Jimmy is interviewed by a fashion reporter who is openly gay. While a few of the other characters are only shown in heterosexual relationships, it's implied that the club scene the majority of the protagonists are a part of is a more than friendly starting space for gay hookups and relationships.
  • Club Kid: Quite a few proto-club kids appear as part of the main characters' social circle.
  • Crosscast Role: Actress Anne Carlisle in drag as Jimmy.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Adrian had an unpleasant childhood in which her mother acted out and was institutionalized. The film implies it explains (though doesn't excuse) some of her own behavior in her relationship with Margaret.
  • Demonic Possession: One interpretation of the aliens is that they're possessing Margaret. However, it could be that they are simply piggybacking off of her energy while her decisions remain her own.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Jimmy is charming, but an egotistical drug addict who is just as selfish and abusive as nearly every other named character in the film.
  • Domestic Abuse: Margaret's drug-dealing girlfriend, Adrian, is often cruel and controlling. At one point she nearly attacks Margaret with a knife.
  • Drag Queen: Anne Carlisle acts in the role of a Drag King while playing Jimmy, a stylized, androgynous bisexual man whose intense charm is countered by his equally intense cruelty and selfishness.
  • Drugs Are Bad: It's up to the audience to determine where the movie falls on the issue, but much of the movie is spent suggesting that the aliens are at first attracted to the euphoric high people get from the "liquid sky" (heroin) of the title - before deciding that feeding off of human orgasms is even better. That said, the characters in the film who are addicts are not portrayed pleasantly, in spite of their outward glamour.
  • Female Misogynist: Adrian repeatedly refuses to respect Margaret's sexual boundaries, at one point referring to Margaret disparagingly as an "uptight WASP" when she rejects the sexual advances of a man visiting their apartment.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Played with. From Margaret's perspective, she is empowered to take revenge on people who use and take advantage of her, although she herself may simply be being used by the aliens. Possibly a genuine version If Margaret joins with the aliens at the end, rather than simply being used and then abandoned by them.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: Jimmy makes a point of preferring men and not usually having sex with women, but everyone he either hooks up with or makes a pass at in the film is a woman. A reporter interviewing both Margaret and Jimmy makes a point that he wouldn't have sex with Margaret because he is gay.
  • Informed Judaism: Johann stays with a secular Jewish woman who rejects kosher traditions by insisting on a shrimp dinner.
  • LGBT Awakening: Margaret has a monologue in which she recalls that her coming out experience had to do with bucking social conventions and avoiding the expectations of her conservative and patriarchal WASP background, before realizing that women can be just as abusive and controlling as men.
  • Novelization: Anne Carlisle wrote one in 1987.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Johann's conversation with Adrian. She believes he is a police officer threatening her with an investigation and enforcement action, whereas he is simply trying to warn her about the alien invasion in her own home.
  • Performance Artist: Jimmy, Margaret, and Adrian are all involved in the Performance Art scene at the unnamed alternative nightclub where much of the film takes place.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Adrian is in a same-sex relationship with Margaret, although the movie's plot implies they haven't had sex in a while. Adrian is abusive and suggested to have inherited mental illness from her mother. She eventually forces herself on Margaret in front of an audience at the end of the movie in order to prove a point.
  • Sadist Teacher: Margaret's drama teacher, who slut-shames her and then pressures her into sex before meeting with a well-earned demise.
  • Self-Imposed Exile: Adrian suggests fleeing to Germany after discovering that sexual contact with Margaret is killing people.
  • Slut-Shaming:
    • Margaret's Drama teacher expresses disdain for her sexually provocative aesthetic choices, but also sees them as an excuse to take advantage of her.
    • Adrian repeatedly expresses her bitterness with Margaret's perceived promiscuity and involvement with people other than her, often using slurs and insulting terms to vent.
  • Speculative Fiction LGBT: Perhaps one of the better known explicitly queer science fiction films of the 1980s.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Prior to the start of the film, Margaret left home and came out of the closet only to find herself, during the events of the story, terrorized by an abusive partner, raped by a fellow clubgoer, pressured into unwanted sexual favors by her Drama teacher, having an affair with an emotionally unstable drug addict, and incapable of having sex that doesn't cause people to die and in some cases literally disappear into thin air. One interpretation of the ending is that she commits suicide while high an an overdose. Wow.
  • Wham Shot: Margaret smashing the decorative mask in her apartment. Also, Margaret falling from the ladder at the end of the film.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Much of the film takes place at a queer-friendly Performance Art club (with an open-walled gender-neutral toilet no less!), and the movie's club scenes are often credited with inspiring later generations of drag performances and fetish events (the latter of both a straight and queer variety).