Chris Petits 1980 film "Radio On" has a cult status. I watched it a few weeks ago and found it morose and melancholic. Content is meant to be Petits coda to that film 3 decades on. Interestingly, he'd been a journalist for Time Out and had to learn how to make films properly (he claims) after he'd made Radio On.
It doesn't look like he's learnt how to direct too properly in the 30 years since though; this film isn't a typical point-to-prove, or even get-to-the-point documentary. Maybe Petit wouldn't be very good at doing straight beginning-middle-end "story" films. Being elusive could be a way of deflecting attention away from a deficiency to be more directly engaging perhaps. What appears intelligent is more like deliberate obtuseness disguising a basic lack of film directing skill, aptitude, or talent. I don't know. Think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. See this as the thoughtful, original, different "film essay" its trying to be.
So what is this film essay exactly? A stream of reflective if somewhat gloomy rumination on the passage of time, ageing, communication, family, parenthood, new media, loss of privacy etc.
He films using a sound collage of cut and paste jumbled up moving images. The linear criss-crosses across into the non-linear. The real elides into the virtual. And then back again. It teeters on the verge of being visually incoherent but Petits detached narration threads some sort of abstract sense through it. I kept stopping the film to jot down some of this commentary.
To be honest i preferred what he was saying more than what he was showing. I could have listened to this as a radio essay (on radio 3) and probably got just as much out of it.
I suppose i like gloomy rumination from older men that are now getting a bit past it. Cus I'm getting to be one myself.
"Content" isn't referring to the contentment of having aged well or wisely. It's rather asking questions about how much content there is this media saturated world, and how we suffer from information overload.
What to do with it all? And how to package it and make meaning from it? How to be content with so much content? I suppose one way is to turn it into a film like this.
And lament how time feels like it's slipping sadly away.
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