Criterion Sunday 362: Border Radio (1987)

This is essentially a student film by a group of UCLA filmmaking students (two of whom, including Allison Anders, went on to have careers in the industry as far as I can tell), but it’s an evocative one that harks back to the legacy of the French New Wave as much as to contemporary trends. After all, it’s a tricksily structured story about guys on the run shot in grainy black-and-white and making good use of its desolate locations. The way that it sorts of backs into its narrative makes it a little hard to follow at times — certainly I was never sure who any of the guys were, dudes drawn from the local music scene in LA (including more than one actor called Chris, as well as John Doe from the band X, and I’m going to use this parenthetical aside to note that the Wikipedia entry uses the word “cowpunk” to describe the music), but who all somewhat blended into one in my mind. However, the generic story and set-up means that this isn’t too troubling, nor is the occasionally stilted acting performance. Instead, it works at the level of atmosphere and location, with a sparky sense of new filmmakers trying stuff out and it (largely) working quite well.

FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Directors/Writers Allison Anders, Dean Lent and Kurt Voss; Cinematographer Lent; Starring Chris D., Luanna Anders, Chris Shearer, John Doe; Length 83 minutes.

Seen at home (DVD), London, Friday 7 August 2020.