Radio On (1979)

March 26th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

images-3Director: Chris Petit

Writer: Chris Petit, Heidi Adolph

104min   Drama | Music  UK

Cast: David Beames, Lisa Kreuzer, Sandy Ratcliff, Sting,

With funding from Wim Wenders and his cinematographer Martin Schäfer, British director Christopher Petit’s first feature could hardly have been shot in colour. Indeed, black and white seems particularly fitting for the sombre and troubled tone of this endearing seventies road movie. With shades of Get Carter, without the stars, it sees David Beames (as Robert) driving from London to Bristol to check out the mysterious death of his brother. Under murky, sleet-soaked skies, the dismal journey has Robert searching for his own identity in a dispondent Britain where he fails to engage with anyone he meets along the way: an ex-soldier, a woman looking for her child and a child punk rocker. Accompanied by an iconic soundtrack comprising David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Ian Dury, Lena Lovich and a wonderful vignette from Sting, posing as a garage mechanic in the depths of Wiltshire; Robert’s failure to communicate with the disenfranchised seems, even then, to reflect the malaise now emblematic of the way we live in Britain today. The journey ends as bitterly as it began, with his Rover stalling and peters out on the edge of a desolate quarry. Raw and chilly, this sneering piece of British cinema raises an idiosyncratic question-mark, that still remains unanswered today. MT

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