Liquid Sky opens
The underground downtown New York movie scene of the early '80s produced a heady mix of directors who crossed punk attitude with a do-it-yourself aesthetic long before "DIY" became an industry buzzword. Leading lights included Amos Poe, Jim Jarmusch, Eric Mitchell, Beth B, Bette Gordon and even Kathryn Bigelow. But one of the most successful films to emerge from the movement, Liquid Sky, was directed by a relative outsider to the close-knit scene. Russian-born Slava Tsukerman made documentaries in Israel before landing in New York and concocting his trippy ode to space aliens, hedonism and New Wave fashion. The androgynous Anne Carlisle played both a male and female role in this story about space aliens looking for drugs and sexual gratification in the streets of Soho and the Lower East Side. The film cost about $500,000 and grossed several million, playing for months as a midnight cult movie in cities around the U.S. Part of its appeal was its genuine oddness. While viewers at the time may have been struggling to understand New York's avant-garde, Tsukerman's playful film projected the inviting sense of a filmmaker figuring it out too. Recently Tsukerman hosted a screening of the movie at New York's Ace Hotel and spoke to Brigitte Nicole of Opening Ceremony. In response to her question about being a filmmaking outsider, he said, "I think, for me, that is the nature of filmmaking, to leave. I was always making films in Russia about scientists and people who do things that nobody else understands; when I moved to Israel, I made a documentary film about the Russian nationalist church in Israel, which I didn’t know much about as I was looking from the outside. I think the trick for filmmaking is that you have to be in the same time, inside and outside; if you are only inside or only outside, it will not work. To feel for all of your heroes, you should love them and understand them, but at the same time, you need to look from the outside--that's the only way to really make an interesting film. So, I guess being an immigrant in this case was part of a generalization, actually speaking [to] the self-joke [about] language. There are a lot of jokes in Liquid Sky about being an alien in all senses, to refer back to the joke of the film."