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Radio On (1979)

 -  Drama | Music | Mystery  -  1979 (UK)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 461 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 26 critic

Set in 1970's Britain, a man drives from London to Bristol to investigate his brother's death. The purpose of his trip is offset by his encounters with a series of odd people.

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Title: Radio On (1979)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
David Beames ...
Robert
Lisa Kreuzer ...
Ingrid
Sandy Ratcliff ...
Kathy
Andrew Byatt ...
Deserter
Sue Jones-Davies ...
Girl
...
Just Like Eddie
Sabina Michael ...
Aunt
Katja Kersten ...
German Woman
Paul Hollywood ...
Kid
Adrian Jones
Cyril Kent
Bernard Mistovski
Nina Pace
Joseph Riordan
David Squire
Edit

Storyline

Set in 1970's Britain, a man drives from London to Bristol to investigate his brother's death. The purpose of his trip is offset by his encounters with a series of odd people.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music | Mystery

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Release Date:

1979 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?

Connections

Referenced in Interview with Chris Petit and Keith Griffiths (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Frozen Years
Performed by The Rumour
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User Reviews

 
Another grey day
19 July 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

As enigmatic as its title, Chris Petit's debut film is interesting visually, but less so in other respects, particularly narrative drive and character depth. To be perfectly honest, it starts slowly and decelerates from there, with David Beames' disillusioned disc-jockey setting out to ostensibly look into the death (in his own bath) of his brother. Along the way he encounters obsessive individuals like an unhinged Scottish army deserter, an Eddie Cochran-obsessed garage attendant and a young German woman trying to track down her daughter.

More than likely the film is working at allegorical and symbolic levels I couldn't comprehend, although I did recognise the bleakness of the environment depicted here, having lived through the period as a young adult in Glasgow. I wasn't surprised to see Wim Wenders' name on the production credits, so terribly slow is the I hesitate to call it action, the longueurs broken most frequently by music from the contemporary post-industrial music scene, including tracks by Kraftwerk, Bowie and Fripp amongst others. In fact the music is so dominant at times, you might think the film is the visual accompaniment to its own soundtrack, rather than the other way round.

It's all very stilted and boring however. Some humour might have helped a bit or even some sort of dramatic climax, but I gave up on that hope quite early. As a snapshot of this country suffering economic hardship in a bleak post-industrial wasteland (no change there, then), I just about got Beames aimless and listless drifting as a metaphor for the frustrated youth of the time, distrusting authority, travelling without moving as the saying goes.

Eventually he literally moves to the edge as he ends up on the edge of a precipice, in actuality a disused quarry but by then I had tired of the film's general inaction, dull characterisations, flat dialogue and obscure locations. The camera lingers on and on long after a scene has ended, and what I presume are supposed to be meaningful silences are in the end just awkward pauses.

The Britain of the early Thatcher government was like this visually, grey, cold bleak and pretty hopeless. I'm not quite sure however what I was meant to derive from the main character's "journey", even if in truth he seemed to be on a road to nowhere. I could see cultural cross-references to the music of the day (The Specials "Ghost Town" from a year later would have fitted the soundtrack very well) and also the photography of Anton Corbijn (best known for his work with U2 and Depeche Mode), but as a bona-fide movie though, I didn't get its vaguely film-noir meets urban decay aspiration and might have wished I'd put on a few Bowie and Kraftwerk albums to pass the time instead.


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What is the Bristol hotel in the film? pottedstu
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