Thursday, February 11, 2010

Radio On (1980)

Dir: Christopher Petit
Plexifilm DVD

A meandering story about a D.J. named Robert (David Beames) who drives across England to find out what happened to his brother. The film starts with a camera slowly moving through a "flat" to the sounds of David Bowie's "Heroes" and finally stopping on a shot of someone's feet in a bathtub. It then cuts to Robert opening a package and four Kraftwerk cassettes (The cassette was an ancient device that was used to transport music, they were magnetic tapes encased in plastic and needed another device to play back the recorded music. Ask your parents about it sometime. *editor's note*) with a note that says "Happy Birthday, Brother". Robert then starts on his road adventure meeting several characters along the way including a Scottish Army deserter, German immigrants, and Sting. The movie is close in look and tone to Wim Wenders Kings of the Road. Wenders is credited with associate producer on the film so no surprise on his influence on it. The movie belongs to a very specific sub-genre of road picture that seemed to only exist in the late seventies and early eighties. A time when young film artists were trying to reconcile the existentialism of the 70' with the cynical consumerism of the coming decade. The film is beautifully summed up with the final shots of an old English sea-side town lingering casually as Kraftwerk's "Ohm Sweet Ohm" plays.
The transfer on the disc is excellent showing off the beautiful black & white photography. The chapter stops are named for the songs that play over the particular scenes denoting just how important the music is to the experience of viewing. The only feature is a 24 minute look at the locations shot around 1999, twenty years later, with Petit and Beames on hand.


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