Radio On

Post-punk road movie, ripe for reassessment

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In 1979 Chris Petit made one of the most atypical British films of all time. Heavily influenced by US noir and the European wanderings of Wim Wenders (the associate producer) and Godard, yet it distils a very English despair and sense of dislocation. Despite a soundtrack laced with Low-era Bowie, Kraftwerk and Stiff Records stars, its perverse, introverted slowness failed to chime with its intended audience and it’s since lain fallow, forgotten. This reissue suggests we may now be angst-ridden enough to embrace it. Its morose anti-hero (David Beames) is a graveyard shift DJ at a biscuit factory. Informed that his brother has died, he leaves London for Bristol to find out more. On the motorway he meets a series of oddballs: an army deserter, a garage attendant who’s into Eddie Cochran (a young Sting). Arriving, he interacts with glum women, gets drunk and existential. Less happens than this synopsis suggests, but the monochrome melancholy and rain will strike a chord with anyone who’s into Hopper, Ballard or always crashing in the same car. Turn on, tune in, mope out.


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