People I've shown or lent this film to on video tend to polarise into two groups - those who loathe it with an intensity bordering on the pathological (and see some of those comments on this site), usually finding it either incomprehensible or repellent; and those who find it fascinating and truly original.
The second group tend to watch it at least twice and usually more often than that. It is not a film that makes imminent sense on the first viewing. The narrative is so multi-layered that it takes two viewings to appreciate the connections between scenes and characters.
It is a film that you have to work at. And it is no less valuable because of that.
If you don't like it and can't make sense of it, then the loss is your own.
For those prepared to suspend belief it is a rare masterpiece of originality. True, the acting is patchy, but like the actors in Warhol films they do not seek to portray common or garden social characters that we recognise from everyday life, the stuff of mainstream cinema; but are personalities constructed at the extremities of social existence - the exceptions, misfits, and exiles. This makes them interesting in themselves.
The science fiction antecedents to the film probably lie in the literary work of William Burroughs as much as in film history. The same social actors are to be found - people searching for something on the edge of reality, where sex and drugs are pursued and traded, all in the name of obsessive self-interest or self-oblivion. Burroughs characters are often as repellent as the characters in this film. Often for the same reasons. The film centres on the ultimate in self-obsessed, self-absorbed, selfish humanity.
The same can be said for the alien invader. In fact the alien manifests all the same characteristics as the actors in the hip New York crowd. All are obsessed with their own personal needs and ambitions to the exclusion of all else. But whereas the humans are mortal and have an inconvenient habit of dropping dead, murdered by the alien at the point of sexual orgasm, the alien itself lacks physical form. It devotes its life to expanding its own consciousness. Heroin will do but a chemical secreted by the human brain during orgasm is even better.
This is no conventional science fiction film with a monster from out of space. The monsters are also the humans. The aliens are already amongst us.
All of this makes it sound like an argument in favour of the repellent view of the film. It isn't. It's intellectually challenging and morally demanding, true. But it's also visually stunning, original in concept, and an interesting social document on the post-punk fashion scene in New York at the time it was made.
Occasionally, very occasionally, a film is made that transcends the ordinary, everyday reality of commercial cinema. Even commercial science fiction. This is one of those very rare films.
Everything about it is unique. The characters, the dialogue, the music, and the social and economic context combine to create a world-view of extreme existence taken to its ultimate limits by the arrival of a creature from outer space. The creature somehow manages to extend the boundaries of existence of those already far, far out there on the very edge of social reality. In the closing scene the main character tries to become at one with the creature. We can only speculate as to whether she succeeds.
Invisible aliens in a tiny flying saucer come to Earth looking for heroin. They land on top of a New York apartment inhabited by a drug dealer and her female, androgynous, bisexual nymphomaniac lover, a fashion model. The aliens soon find the human pheromones created in the brain during orgasm preferable to heroin, and the model's casual sex partners begin to disappear. This increasingly bizarre scenario is observed by a lonely woman in the building across the street, a German scientist who is following the aliens, and an equally androgynous, drug-addicted male model. (Both models are played by Anne Carlisle, in a dual role.) Darkly funny and thoroughly weird.
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May 16, 2018 at 11:33 AM