Christopher Petit’s debut feature Radio On is the rare road movie from England. Since its 1979 release, it’s become a cult classic and been recognized as one of the “100 Greatest British Films” (Little White Lies). London DJ Robert (David Beames), the film’s enigmatic protagonist, embarks on a road trip from London to Bristol, to investigate the recent death of his brother.
A remarkable collection of art rock, punk and new wave—David Bowie, Devo, Kraftwerk, Robert Fripp, Ian Dury and more—soundtracks Robert’s journey. The austere urban and rural landscapes he drives through are beautifully and strikingly rendered in black and white by Martin Shäfer (who had been Wim Wenders’ assistant cameraman). As Robert drives westward, the radio newscasts he hears and the strangers he meets address the dire sociopolitical and economic state of “Winter of Discontent”-era Britain. Petit deftly melds these stylistic, narrative and documentary elements, resulting in an undeniably eerie and reflective mood that casts a hypnotic spell on the viewer.
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