We’re pleased to present the trailer and posters for the new 4K restoration of Christopher Petit’s debut feature Radio On (1979), which sees its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 4 and 5 before opening at the Metrograph on October 15. Writing for Film Comment in 2007, Chris Chang called Radio On an “exquisitely bleak yet thoroughly transcendent” road movie. London DJ Robert (David Beames) heads east to Bristol to investigate the death of his brother, and he’s accompanied by one of the great soundtracks in British cinema: David Bowie, Devo, Kraftwerk, Robert Fripp, Ian Dury. “There is no other movie like it in the national canon,” wrote John Patterson in the Guardian in 2004. “It followed no major domestic cinematic currents or trends, and generated none of its own.”
Petit (who has since written eight novels and made several features, many of which he collaborated on with Iain Sinclair) was writing for Melody Maker and working as Time Out’s film editor when he first began thinking about Radio On. “A turning point for me was a Sight & Sound article circa 1972 about Alain Resnais’s intention to film the Belgian writer Jean Ray’s Harry Dixon stories, which were set in London,” he told Adam Scovell in S&S last month. “Resnais declared London a surreal city by definition, and photographs of the East End accompanying the article suggested he might be right. It’s all massively redeveloped now, but then it was a wilderness, and I remember thinking, ‘If you look at it in the right way, then it can become anything you want.’ So, later, the idea of making a ‘road movie’ in a country seemingly antithetical to the term never struck me as odd.”
Petit handed his screenplay to Wim Wenders, who not only came aboard as a producer but also introduced Petit to cinematographer Martin Schäfer and sound engineer Martin Müller, both of whom had worked on Wenders’s films. Lisa Kreuzer, who was married to Wenders at the time, appears in Radio On, and Sting shows up as a rockabilly-loving gas station attendant. With its stark black-and-white imagery and its drifting souls, Radio On has reminded some viewers over the years of such Wenders road movies as Alice in the Cities (1974) and Kings of the Road (1976). “I had to put up with quite a lot of the ‘English Wenders’ tag,” says Petit, “but Wenders himself graciously said of Radio On, ‘Same roots, different direction.’”
Below the new trailer from Fun City Editions edited by Chris O’Neill and scored by Gabbie Bam Bam, you’ll find the new posters designed by Sister Hyde.