Blu-Ray Review: Radio On



There’s something about America which makes it ripe for a roundtrip. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with its geography, prevalence of major highways and distances between large cities. There’s also an air of romanticism, which was originally conjured up in literature by the likes of Jack Kerouac in On The Road but soon transferred onto the big screen. This hasn’t been the case in the UK, with road movies being somewhat of a rarity. Radio On is one of the best.

Set in the late 1970s, Robert (David Beames) is a young radio DJ living in London. When he learns about the death of his brother in mysterious circumstances, he decides to make the trip to Bristol to investigate. Along the way, he meets a number of people from different backgrounds; all on their own journeys. Including a German woman (Lisa Kreuzer) looking for her daughter, a mechanic (Sting) and a deserter from the army (Andrew Byatt).

It’s impossible to discuss Radio On without a nod to the music. Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo and many more provide a new wave soundtrack that is the perfect accompaniment for Martin Schäfer’s stark monochrome cinematography. Christopher Petit’s film reflects the socio-political climate of the period, the rise of Thatcherism and a changing cultural landscape. Radio On is an enigmatic and offbeat walk on the wild side.

Extras:

  • Newly restored by the BFI from the original camera negative
  • Newly recorded video essay in which director Chris Petit revisits key scenes in Radio On
  • Cinematic Windscreen: Jason Wood on Radio On (2021, 54 mins): newly recorded interview with the Creative Director of Film & Culture at Manchester’s HOME
  • A Little Bit Kitsch, But Ice Cold: Retro-futurism in Focus (2021, 52 mins, audio only): in conversation with BFI Video Publishing’s Vic Pratt, Chris Petit, writer and director of Radio On, revisits the film, recalls key scenes in detail, and reconsiders the film’s legacy and continued influence
  • radio on (remix), (1998, 24 mins): a stunning digital video essay with radical disruption of the original soundtrack by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert
  • Coping with Cupid (1991, 18 mins): three blondes from another planet land on Earth in order to conduct research into romantic love in this short film directed by musician and author Viv Albertine
  • On the Road (1972 + 1975, 47 mins): a pair of public information films including L For Logic providing a flashback to driving tests in the 70s and The Motorway File, directed by Ferdinand Fairfax (Jeeves and Wooster, Danger UXB) on the dangers of motorway driving
  • Original trailer
  • **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by Jason Wood, Jane Giles and Viv Albertine and archival essays by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Ian Penman, Chris Petit, Sukhdev Sandhu and Rudy Wurlitzer

Radio On is released on Blu-ray by the BFI on 17 May.

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