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  Radio On Lost On The Way
Year: 1980
Director: Christopher Petit
Stars: David Beames, Lisa Kreuzer, Sandy Ratcliff, Andrew Byatt, Sue Jones-Davies, Sting, Sabina Michael, Katja Kersten, Paul Hollywood, Adrian Jones, Cyril Kent
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Robert (David Beames) is a disc jockey for United Biscuits, whose programmes are broadcast over the tannoy at their factories as the workers perform the late shift. However, this numbing life of sleeping all day and playing records all night is about to be disrupted when he recieves a telephone call from his mother to inform him that his brother has died, found dead in his own bath. It was only the other day that Robert had a package of cassette tapes delivered to him from his brother, and he is immediately suspicious, so decides to drive down to Bristol and find out more...

Sometimes critics cannot help themselves and feel the urge to make their own works instead of telling everyone what they think of other people's, and so it was with Christopher Petit, a film editor for Time Out magazine whose Radio On was his first attempt. For an initial effort, it was clearly indebted to the New German Cinema movement of the seventies and more specifically the films of Wim Wenders, and indeed Wenders became one of the producers on this, but if you looked a little closer you would see a more British sense of time and place here.

That time being the end of the grim seventies, and Petit goes out of his way to render his landscapes and cityscapes as dourly as possible, yet in an odd way he finds a bleak romanticism in these images. Essentially Radio On was a road movie, and while you might think that in a country as small as Britain this most American of genres needed more in the way of endless highways and wide open spaces, here Wenders had shown that Europe could come up with something just as effective.

Of course, a journey from London to Bristol is not exactly an epic quest, but Petit does not pretend otherwise and there's little sense of grand vistas to be conquered no matter how cinematic the road trip can be. In fact, many of the characters seem thoroughly disengaged from their lives, with Robert meeting a variety of curious folks on his way, from a deserter from the Army who he ditches at the roadside when he turns threatening to none other than Sting, a mechanic playing guitar in an Eddie Cochran tribute as he sits in a caravan near a petrol station.

And as it is the law, any mention of Eddie Cochran must include a mention that Dave Dee of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch was the first police officer at the scene of his fatal crash, and Radio On does not let us down as far as that goes. But it's really the music that provides any spark at all, a mixture of Krafftwerk, David Bowie and various acts from the Stiff record label, something that must have soaked up most of the budget. When something approaching a discernable plot emerges, involving a German mother (Lisa Kreuzer from Alice in the Cities) looking for her little girl, it looks out of place as the film had been finding a rhythm of its own without the inclusion of a proper story. The film offers a pessimistic and unresolved look forward to the eighties from its depressing late seventies perspective, meaning it sums up its own period quite neatly.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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