Border Radio (Anders, Voss, Vent, 1987)

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Listening to codirectors Allison Anders and Kurt Voss elequent audio commentary on the Criterion disc of Border Radio helps clarify the dynamic, fleeting and sometimes muddled historical context so crucial to the framework of their first film. Produced during the directors’ waning days as film students at UCLA, this low budget punk rock ballad fuses a documentary sensibility with brazen road film aesthetics and has an undeniable musical energy.

Over the dusty black and white 16mm reversal film stock, Anders and Voss reference the the dying days of punk rock clubs in Los Angeles and the hollowing of this music for the good of commercialization, alluding to an overall apathy with which the key players reacted to the crumbling of their movement. But all this interesting filler gets framed through a flimsy story of a disillusioned rocker, his writer wife, and their two bumbling cronies all playing a part in systematically unhinging the rest. In this sense, Border Radio can’t help but feel dated, a problematic relic of a musical (and cinematic) era lone gone but never forgotten.

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