Monday, October 13, 2008

Perfect Pairing

The Aug-
ust issue
of Sight & Sound, the world's finest film magazine, featured a cover story called "The Lost World of the Double Bill." Of the "50 per-
fect pairings" chosen by their panel of experts, here's my favorite:

Radio On

Chris Petit (1979)
Withnail & I
Bruce Robinson (1986)

A pair of DVDs drops through the letterbox. But which to
watch first, Petit's morose monochrome masterpiece or
Robinson's paean to binge-drunk backchat? Downer first,
then the upper; one film bleeds into the other, both of them
road movies. Radio On is a long and winding cul-de-sac,
Withnail a pissed-up, full-circle detour. Hangovers squared.

Robinson reprises the 1960s' fall-out as two fingers
to Thatcherism (you know Danny the Dealer's going
to reinvent himself as a property magnate). Petit leaves
post-punk London in an old banger and discovers England
still stuck in the 1950s (Sting whispering Eddie Coch-
rane, Kraftwerk and Bowie offering visions of more fut-
uristic vistas). One film sings, the other doesn't—Pet-
it can't get a word in over Robinson's thespy gargling.

They conjure semi-accidental x-rays of national transition up there with Performance for nailing things on the verge of vanishing, including the car-
eers of both directors. The penalty for creating two slow-burn classics is banishment, silence and back-row, bar-room cult love. Contrary to the advice offered in Withnail, you should always mix your films. Later that afternoon, S&S asks for 200 words on my dream double bill? Sorted.


Click here for my review of Radio On and
for Rudy Wurlitzer's appreciation.

Endnote: I love the way Richard E. Grant looks
like a dissipated vampire in the pic at top. Images
from A Piece of Monologue and Warped Reality.

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