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Liquid Sky
May 11, 2011 6:58 PM   Subscribe

It’s about time people started rendering unto Liquid Sky. Its long lipstick trace is smudged through much of indie cinema.

The sights we see in Liquid Sky are riding the wave of genius punk sensibility from the late 70s, but by '83 are in full morph into the weird, technological forms we love. The broad bell-bottom analog curves of the 70's had given way to neon grids and skinny ties, and it was great.
posted by Trurl (69 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
On a personal note, my father never forgave me for taking him to see this movie.
posted by Trurl at 6:59 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Me and My Rhythm Box" still crops up in my mind from time to time.

Liquid Sky is an excellent example of a film that is not very good but oozes greatness.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:00 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have tried 3 times to sit through Liquid Sky in a single sitting. It's basically impossible for me. I won't deny that it may be groundbreaking and landmark, but I really can't say that it's good.
posted by hippybear at 7:07 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn't it fashionable?
posted by dersins at 7:14 PM on May 11, 2011


Oh man, I remember seeing that in the old Orson Wells cinema in Cambridge. Fuck yeah.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:15 PM on May 11, 2011


I love Liquid Sky. If you show that to someone and they get it, you know you've got a friend for life.
posted by joannemullen at 7:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm with hippybear, maybe it's just "a NY thing."
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2011


liquid sky got me into heroin, and for that I am eternally grateful
posted by the noob at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


One of the greatest terrible movies I've ever seen.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You are the most beautiful boy. You are the most beautiful fucker! We want to see you fuck 'er!"

"I bet you three hundred dollars I can fuck Margaret and not die!"

I kind of like the soundtrack, too, Fairlight and all. A friend and I are big fans of this movie, so whenever we are driving around and "Me and My Rhythm Box" (it never shits, it never sleeps) comes on a mix, we have to pull over and dance like tired robots. Or we will be watching it and I will come staggering out of the bathroom done up like Margaret at the end, with caked on zinc oxide sunscreen for a base and gel toothpaste for cheek stripes. "And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself."

There is also a book. Why?

And why can't I find any fucking Quaaludes?
posted by adipocere at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think Liquid Sky is more of a persisting secret handshake than a film you're supposed to enjoy.
posted by byanyothername at 7:29 PM on May 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


My favorite secret handshake film is probably Nowhere, though. God, but I adore that soundtrack.
posted by byanyothername at 7:32 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Until this post, this was the only Liquid Sky I knew (related audio/video sample). I doubt they are related.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:33 PM on May 11, 2011


I remember putting together a mixtape and placing bits of the liquid sky soundtrack between songs. there was ne'r a more fast forwarded C90 in history.
posted by the noob at 7:34 PM on May 11, 2011


I love this film, even though it's nearly unwatchable.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:39 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in college, the local repertory theater still ran double-bills with different films every night. About every six months, they'd show Blade Runner and it was always paired with Liquid Sky. Good times, man.
posted by immlass at 7:40 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


For me, it's not the candy-floss visuals, the stranger in a strange land feel that visiting Russian filmmaker Slava Tsukerman captured so well, or the little early eighties NYC conceits that seem so sweetly naive now—it's the sound, that thrumming, playfully ominous inexplicable http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairlight_CMI">basso profundo of Fairlight flutes played in octaves far from their original pitches, in arrangements of mutated classical music shattered into glassy shards by an interdimensional Wurlitzer carousel organ. The screeching of aliasing 8-bit bell loops set to too-short cycles playing joyous roughshod stomping marches in parallel, tortured childhoods, the http://youtu.be/Sc9gMstmEBU">twitchy score to twitchy fashions, the interplay of tension and junk-sick languidity—there just wasn't anything that sounded like this in film, not before, and not much after, either.

Sitting in some broken-down old repertory theater on the edge of Alphabet City in '84, I just couldn't believe that something could sound like that, and I made my way there for a week of late-night showings, just rapt. I'm an oddball in that sound can make a film for me far more than visuals, unless it's Malick at work, and when it all comes together, oh my.

Reading about the score later, I was amazed that it all came off one instrument—the mighty Fairlight at the old PASS (Public Access Synthesizer Studio), where you could rent time on instruments you could never afford. I mortgaged my life away for my first sampler in '88, a machine far more capable than the old Series II Tsukerman used, but it set a lot of how I work in motion.

These days, I watch Liquid Sky and I know that it's essentially a terrible movie, with gorgeous, monstrously quotable set pieces wrapped in a hell of a lot of bullshit, but I took advantage of a night not long ago, when my building was empty of everyone but me, put on my copy of 'Sky, warmed up the subwoofer, cranked it to 11, and let the house shake like all the subways in NYC were coming over to my house, and there it was, all these years later—that sound, that singular, irreplaceable moment from a million years ago, when something changed my mind about what was possible.
posted by sonascope at 7:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


If I had a nickel for the number of times I've had to explain, "No more glass arrows, chief..." I'm really glad that there's no remake planned for this.
posted by crataegus at 7:52 PM on May 11, 2011


Liquid Sky is to hipsters what Boondock Saints is to frat boys.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
I like the movie I think this is.
Then I try to watch it and it of course is awful.
Then after a while I forget all of it.
Then time passes after which...
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think Liquid Sky is more of a persisting secret handshake than a film you're supposed to enjoy.

Saw it at least three times back in the day. It didn't get better with repeated viewings. Yet, I imagine it does speak of a very particular point in time (mid-80s) and place (urban art scene) in a way that not much else could.

The first time I saw it was particularly memorable as it was a double-bill (a matinee yet) with Eraserhead, which, needless to say, had a far greater impact on me, both short and long term. I can still remember the day actually. Mid-winter in Vancouver, raining damned hard. Come to think of it, it was always raining in the 80s -- the whole damned decade. And it was always winter, too.
posted by philip-random at 8:30 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


My best friend and I both got the flu during spring break in I think 1985. We were stuck in a condo in with his octogenarian grandparents. We watched liquid sky way too many times, along with Robocop, and watched eggs explode in the microwave oven. A lot. 26 years later these are dorktastic cherished memories. Thank you random video store!
posted by morsananda at 8:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's go off-topic here and explore the "it was always winter" thing.
Cuz I GET that.
Does anyone else think of years or eras as dominant seasons?
Like I know that 1977-79 had winters and I even have specific memories from those winters, but their dominant impression to me is one of endless summer and sunshine.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:37 PM on May 11, 2011


Reading about the score later, I was amazed that it all came off one instrument—the mighty Fairlight at the old PASS (Public Access Synthesizer Studio), where you could rent time on instruments you could never afford.

Little knowing that someday the app would sell for $10.
posted by Trurl at 8:38 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me.
Me and Fi
Me and Fi Metatalks
Me and Fi Metatalks
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 9:02 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Liquid Sky is one of those movies that needs to be on a double bill. It's almost unwatchable unless you get some momentum going. When I first saw it, some friends rented it with Bar Fly (which I had never seen) and needless to say, we watched Liquid Sky second; which means we got drunk watching Bar Fly and then had the alcoholic inertia to get through Liquid Sky.

I love the soundtrack, however.
posted by BYiro at 9:11 PM on May 11, 2011


You wonder if the filmmakers kept having girlfriends disappear on them after they had sex with them so they wrote a script to explain the phenomena in sci-fi terms.

I will say for being such a badly made movie it is still one I can recall after 25 years better than many other [better] movies I have seen in that time period.
posted by Rashomon at 9:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Far more crotched and rangy than the Barrons’ work on Forbidden Planet, Liquid Sky‘s score finds itself instead somewhere between the Manhattan Research projects of Raymond Scott and the QY20 sessions of the early Max Tundra. Less the bludgeoning porno-beats of electroclash – the musical genre of recent times most associated with the film – than a curiously childlike take on exomusicology: true sci-fi lullabies, advertising jingles for absurd products not yet invented.
posted by Trurl at 9:36 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And here is someone's Master's thesis on it.
posted by Trurl at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2011


And everyone will say delicious delicious.

The act of making someone watch Liquid Sky is a bit like the plot of Liquid Sky.
posted by The Whelk at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


but their dominant impression to me is one of endless summer and sunshine.

How old were you then? I feel that way about the early 70s when the hippie thing was still very much alive and I was just approaching/hitting puberty. My condemnation of the 80s as a decade of unceasing rain and winter is very much connected to the Reagan era, cocaine culture, the nuclear arms race that was getting way out of control leading to much talk of apocalypse -- all of it mixed up with the fact that I was doing lots of psychedelics and coming to see a kind of terrible beauty in it all.

Liquid Sky and Eraserhead fit right in with all that.
posted by philip-random at 9:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stumbled across this movie only a few days ago! I still haven't seen the whole thing in one go, but from the bits and pieces I've watched out of order, it's like a slower, American version of Hausu where everybody's the blood-spewing cat painting.
posted by katillathehun at 10:03 PM on May 11, 2011


I still love this dreadful, dreadful movie. It's the early 80's and NYC and Being An Artist all rolled into one.

And I loved them all.
posted by jrochest at 10:05 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


...some friends rented it with Bar Fly..

Ah, time to quote my favorite movie review of all time, courtesy of the LA Weekly:

Bar Fly
Is that an adjective?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:05 PM on May 11, 2011


Isn't it: Barfly--Is that an adverb?
posted by Camofrog at 10:30 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


For YEARS I have had a movie scene of two women with '80s hairstyles having, um, scissor sex (?) burned into my brain. I could never for the life of me remember where it was from. A-HA! (NSFW!!!)

How I could have forgotten this movie, I'm not sure, but I am guessing it was viewed during the mid '90s and I don't remember those so well.
posted by medeine at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2011


Hmmm, I guess it is just me, then. I couldn't finish this movie. It made me feel sick. What the hell is supposed to be so funny about repeated rape and coercive sex?
posted by Because at 11:59 PM on May 11, 2011


What the hell is supposed to be so funny about repeated rape and coercive sex?

My memory of it is vague but I don't recall thinking of it as funny, except in terms of "so bad it's ... "

What it was, was an earnestly (if awfully) made movie that spoke directly to the concerns of, as jrochest just put it, " ... the early 80's and NYC and Being An Artist all rolled into one." NOBODY else was getting close to that sensibility; certainly not from inside the scene ... or at least that's what it felt like. I was in Vancouver at the time where, yeah, we had our own art-edge thing going ... but distances were longer back then (no internet). Places like NYC and London really felt like different planets.
posted by philip-random at 12:11 AM on May 12, 2011


I watched this once in college and really wanted to like it. I failed. I guess it's not the right flavor of bad/good for me.
posted by brundlefly at 12:30 AM on May 12, 2011


I saw Liquid Sky not long after its release, and thought it was a hokey, posing waste of time. It looked like it was trying very, very hard to be all avant-garde and shocking and it just failed.

Eraserhead is art in ways that Liquid Sky just isn't.
posted by flabdablet at 12:39 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


liquid sky got me into apple pie, and for that I am eternally grateful
posted by Chichibio at 12:40 AM on May 12, 2011


I've seen Liquid Sky several times. I don't think I've ever seen it without chemical stimulation of one kind or another. Having said that, I love the people who I saw it with more than the movie itself. For me it's more about who I was and where I was then. I know that is gone. The memories are fabulous, though.
posted by Splunge at 2:30 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Other than the fact that it's got one of the ten completely amazing film soundtracks of the 20th century, I think Liquid Sky stays in the periphery of cool because it's one of those films that produces killer stills in almost every frame. Like The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T and the The Forbidden Zone, it doesn't quite succeed in delivering the promise that the lurid artificiality of its images would make you hope to see, unlike, say, The Night of The Hunter. Seen on the big screen, though, with the score as loud as a calliope on a full head of steam, there's a distinct delight to it in the same way that cotton candy is a good thing, in its best context.

Over time, I think I've come to enjoy it for the complete inaccuracy of what it's supposed to be describing. As a documentary of the NYC art scene in its time, it's pretty far off, but I was experiencing that scene as a disconnected outsider, too, so it put me on the same level as Tsukerman, looking into a scene and sort of imagining what it was. The reality was far closer to the torture of having to watch The Kipper Kids forever and ever and ever oh god when will it end than it was to this, so we remember this instead (I'd suggest anyone who's never read it to check out On Edge, by C Carr for a more coherent history of the scene. That book answered a lot of my persistent "what the hell did I just see?" questions about my NYC visits, albeit years down the line.).

Just like Repo Man doesn't remotely describe LA punk culture, Sky is its own thing, too, and a 80/20 mixture of the tedious and the inspired. You've just got to be forgiving of the tedium to get the juice out of the rind here, and it really just doesn't work well in a small-screen reduction.
posted by sonascope at 3:45 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reading about the score later, I was amazed that it all came off one instrument—the mighty Fairlight at the old PASS (Public Access Synthesizer Studio), where you could rent time on instruments you could never afford.

Little knowing that someday the app would sell for $10.


(context: CMI Series II (1980) ~£25,000).
(full set of options could cost lots more).
posted by ovvl at 4:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A trifle odd, but a nice high babe ratio! Hey Louie, give the man one on the house, 'kay?
posted by Twang at 4:26 AM on May 12, 2011


The sad thing for me was when I finally managed to weasel my way into regular access to an academic studio with a Fairlight in the early nineties, essentially by offering to paint and renovate the studio (you don't get taken seriously in musical academia when you write out your music on graph paper because you never could grasp the basics of traditional notation) and found that my 1988-vintage Ensoniq EPS sounded better, was easier to work with, and had the advantage of being in my bedroom instead of fifteen miles away in a studio.

Still, it's a magnificent looking instrument that inspired me with the tantalizing concept of a complete compositional environment in a box and shaped the way I worked for years and years. In my dotage, I'm returning to those headwaters, too, working more and more in the evolved embrace of Reason/Record, which do everything the Fairlight did and more, but without wrangling those 8" disks. I can even patch together bitcrushers and filters to go with my Fairlight sample sets and get the exact sort of jangling, aliased grinding drones that made Liquid Sky so wonderful to hear, but it's boring to go backwards when I'm living in the world of the future.
posted by sonascope at 5:47 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


With Herbie and Quincy
posted by the noob at 5:56 AM on May 12, 2011


I still love this dreadful, dreadful movie. It's the early 80's and NYC and Being An Artist all rolled into one.

To paraphrase The Accidental Tourist, I think that with some movies, what matters is who you were when you saw it.
posted by Trurl at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2011


Yeah, I think Liquid Sky is more of a persisting secret handshake than a film you're supposed to enjoy.

One of the paper and dice RPGs I used to play had a note in one of the manuals that said something like "Movies to check out to get you in the right frame of mind..." and it listed Liquid Sky among a bunch of films we were already well acquainted with,

So being fans of the game, we dutifully found a copy, gathered around the TV and spent an evening trying to broaden our horizons.

Later that year, we got to talk to the game creators when they were hanging out at a booth at GenCon.

And face to face with the people who made one of the games which my friends and I had dedicated several hundred hours to, we really only had one question:

"So, you know how you suggested we watch Liquid Sky? What the fuck was that about?"

They just laughed.
posted by quin at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the thread here has nailed it -- that to get why Liquid Sky is important to others, you have to understand where they were at when they saw it.

This doesn't work for me. But only because I didn't actually know what it was until recently. Which I guess says something about me too.

But here's why it's important to me: it serves as a continual reminder how boring you are when using heroin to those who aren't using heroin.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:13 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, Liquid Sky works best as one of the stylistic ancestors of William Gibson-style cyberpunk, along with Tron and Blade Runner. I didn't actually see the movie until the early nineties, at the urging of a friend of mine who was a big fan of the film, and my expectations were colored by a feature article that I'd read in Playboy or Penthouse back at the time of the film's release. When I did finally see it, I was pretty disappointed--it came off as a self-consciously hip version of your classic sci-fi/horror revenge flick where the protagonist uses her unnatural condition to get back at everyone who's pushed her around; think Andy Warhol's Carrie.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2011


The act of making someone watch Liquid Sky is a bit like the plot of Liquid Sky Ringu.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:53 AM on May 12, 2011


Just like Repo Man doesn't remotely describe LA punk culture, Sky is its own thing, too, and a 80/20 mixture of the tedious and the inspired.

Benefit of the doubt here. You're just equating Repo Man and Liquid Sky's cultural accuracy here, right? I suspect that's open to discussion. But suggesting an equivalence of 80/20 tedium/inspiration? That's just, umm, what's the word for it?

Wrong.

Yeah, that's it.
posted by philip-random at 8:55 AM on May 12, 2011


If anyone is going to tell me that Black Flag concertgoers didn't end the evening by ordering sushi and not paying, I'm going to be very disillusioned.
posted by Trurl at 8:57 AM on May 12, 2011


I blame society.
posted by philip-random at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2011


I loved the cheesy yet effective way the "vaporization" effect was created with tinfoil.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2011


I'm going to defend Liquid Sky and say that it is unironically a great movie. The basic space alien plot is stupid, of course, but then again so is the plot of Midsummer Night's Dream. But all the rest of the filmmakers art: the music, the sound, the art direction, the costumes, the acting.. It's all brilliant. Seldom do you see a movie that so perfectly creates and captures an atmosphere. Of course, my personal relationship with the film may colour my opinion. But isn't that the whole point of art? I was 16 when I saw it, and a lonely gay boy in Houston who was too weird for my friends. I won't go so far as to say this film saved my life like a DJ, but it sure improved it.

I always wondered what happened to the folks who made the movie. The filmmaker Slava Tsukerman hasn't done much else; was he busy somewhere else in the NY art scene? Anne Carlisle was brilliant as Margaret, particularly in the climax of the film, her vulnerable monolog about being "an uptight WASP cunt from Connecticut" who becomes "androgynous not less than David Bowie himself". She's amazing but, again, not much else in the way of a film career.

Another essential scene: the fashion show.
posted by Nelson at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2011


It certainly isn't a film you'd watch for its story--much of it is tedious, boring, or disjointed. But it absolutely drips with 80's style, and the soundtrack fits perfectly with the mood of the film, both artificial and alienating.

It reminds me of something like a performance art piece by an earnest young artist. So much of it is forgettable, but every so often it comes together and is absolutely riveting. The wonder and amazement over those parts makes it all worthwile.
posted by mmmtofu at 9:20 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I spent two decades trying to convince myself that Liquid Sky was just a horrible, vaguely remembered hallucination...but then the internet had to come along and prove that yes, this was a thing.
posted by malocchio at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty regular midnight movie when I was growing up. Liquid Sky, Heavy Metal, and The Wall were the standard mm trifecta.

I always wondered what happened to the folks who made the movie. The filmmaker Slava Tsukerman hasn't done much else; ... Anne Carlisle was brilliant as Margaret ... again, not much else in the way of a film career.

I think there's a reason there.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:49 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Memories, memories. I remember debuting this at one of my movie nights.

I just about got run out on a rail. But that was what my movie nights were about. Things no one else would show you.
posted by Samizdata at 12:52 PM on May 12, 2011


Liquid Sky is the movie I recommend to people who didn't like the last two movies I recommended to them. That'll teach 'em.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:03 PM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Senor Cardgage: sorry. 1978 was the blizzard of '78 (which was preceded by a nearly-as-bad not-quite-a-blizzard), so that's pretty much Fimbulwinter compressed to a single season for me.

The phrase "delicious delicious" comes up occasionally for me, particularly with one of my brothers. "Liquid Sky": a shared family moment for parts of the rmd1023 clan.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:12 PM on May 12, 2011


Anne Carlisle was brilliant as Margaret, particularly in the climax of the film, her vulnerable monolog yt about being "an uptight WASP cunt from Connecticut" who becomes "androgynous not less than David Bowie himself".

But, see, even then, she's referring to culture (visually as well as verbally) that's ten years old at the time of the film's release, an aeon in cultural terms. That might be forgiveable for a Soviet filmmaker releasing a movie in Russia; not so much for a film in America, not that long before Let's Dance.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2011


I saw this movie 5 or 6 times at the Orson Welles when it came out. Years later I found a DVD of it. It's one of my treasures.

I loved how all the pieces slid around each other. For instance, Jimmy's mom is looking through the telescope into Margaret's apartment. Had she kept looking, she would have seen Jimmy, but that's when the Chinese food was delivered.

To this day when someone has something they need to do instead of what I want them to do, I say, "Fine. See fucking Owen!"
posted by idiolect at 7:07 PM on May 12, 2011


quin, I actually "saved" some Cyberyahtzee players from hunting down Liquid Sky even though it's one of my favorite movies. I think I made up for it by talking them into watching Leolo.
posted by crataegus at 9:46 PM on May 12, 2011


I think I made up for it by talking them into watching Leolo.

That's been on my list forever. The boy who thinks he was conceived by tomato? Doesn't seem like there's anything shocking about it ... hm, except maybe a couple scenes.... ah, from imdb:

one scene in particular can really effect you for a couple of days unless of course you hate cats

Hmm. Well, I hate some cats. Still fairly down in the queue ...
posted by mrgrimm at 8:09 AM on May 13, 2011


I think you had to be there to get it. It was a film made for a specific genre, for a specific time. I was into Heavy metal magazine, science fiction, was a fan of The Man Who Fell to Earth, Fellini films, and experimental groups like The Residents. It fit into all of that and was a perfect blend.
posted by JJ86 at 2:37 PM on May 13, 2011


Isn't it: Barfly--Is that an adverb?

No.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:18 PM on May 13, 2011


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