In my friend Chris’s ongoing project to watch every film every, he recently watched Diner and commented on the movie’s nostalgic sensibility – a warm sense of a past rooted in friendship. Radio On (1980) is nostalgia of a different strain. Chris Petit’s British road movie, shot in brutally high-contrast black and white, is told in the grip of loss. There’s the immediate, motivating loss of the main character’s brother which necessitates his journey. But there’s also, in the camera’s determined absorption of everything along the route from London to Bristol, a powerful will to record it all – as if Petit feels that this is a world drifting away.
Pubs. The Troubles. Rumbelows (dead in the last recession). Manufacturing industry (likewise). Stiff Records – Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, Graham Parker, Lene Lovich. For someone born in the early 80s, this sort of stuff is the texture of childhood, and it’s striking to see all these things revived in Petit’s detatched long takes. Would it have felt like this to a viewer at the time? Of the characters encountered on the way, those who aren’t bereaved are devoted to the past, like Sting’s Eddie Cochran obsessive. The car that the hero drives around in is ancient already. Flicking curiously through the last photographic remnants of his brother, he can see what’s gone but not recover it.