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Interesting commentary on the decline of British cinema
Former Time Out critic, Christopher Petit's directorial debut, Radio On, shows its European credentials well. I say this for a couple of reasons. For one, like the French New Wave participants, Petit began as a film critic, and the sparing nature of this existential road movie, was self- consciously attempting to move British cinema towards a European style. Secondly, and far more telling, is the influence and participation of the New German Cinema of the 1970's. Whilst interviewing Wim Wenders, the subject of Petit's own screenplay arose, and Wenders was impressed. Therefore, Wenders became associate producer, and also lent the use of his cinematographer, Martin Schafer.
Beautifully shot in monochrome, the black and white imagery displays its artful intentions. We follow Robert (David Beames) as he drives from London to Bristol, after being informed that his brother has committed suicide. On his journey, he encounters several unhinged British citizens, including a Glaswegian squaddie with anger management issues, as well as meeting Sting at a petrol station, who seems to be obsessed with Eddie Cochran. Not much really happens in the film, but the most significant (at least the longest) "relationship" is with a German woman, Ingrid (Lisa Kreuzer - who was in Wenders' Alice in the Cities (1974 - Review #96)), who is searching for her missing daughter named Alice (a possible reference to the aforementioned German film.
This is a bleak representation of 1970's Britain. Not a hard task in itself (you could have pointed a camera anywhere in '70's Britain, and it would have been depressing). But what was fundamental to Petit's intentions, was actually a comment on the decline of British cinema. The main output of British cinema was within the prurient genre of the repressed "sex comedies" such as the on-going Carry On.. films, or the equally lamentable Confessions... series with Robin Askwith. When there was any serious attempt at British cinema, they were barely seen. Petit, felt that the Americanisation of our cinema's and the fact that our national cinema was laughable, was decreasing our cultural identity. Radio On is an attempt to move our cinema towards a more European, existential path, and with a more political consciousness.
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