by Dan Ferguson
Border Radio DVD
Criterion Collection 362
By virtue of flicks like Mi Vida Loca and cult classic Gas Food Lodging, filmmaker/director Allison Anders has done good. Her celluloid roots go back to a DIY, low budget period piece called Border Radio, begun while a film student at UCLA. Now available for the first time on DVD, Border Radio used a so-so story to snapshot the 1980s L.A. post-punk scene. Filmed in grainy 16 mm black & white and drawing from everything from 1940s noir to the French new wave of the 1960s and circa-1970s German Cinema (which is all not surprising considering the era and Anders being a film nut), the story revolves around a rocker who makes off for Mexico with his band buddies after robbing a cheating nightclub’s safe in the process leaving his wife (played by Anders’ sister Luanna) to put the pieces together and convince him to return to his Los Angeles home. Starring the likes of John Doe, Dave Alvin and Chris E. (of Flesh Eaters fame), not to mention scenesters of the era like Texacala Jones and Iris Berry and bands like Green On Red and Billy Wisdom & the He Shees, Anders and her co-horts in BR crime Kurt Voss and Dean Lent (the latter now a noted cinematographer) cast and filmed it beautifully with the end result moments-a-many of coolness. They span scenes shot at L.A. music hangs of the era like the Hong Kong Cafe, Rockaway Records, and the Hully Gully rehearsal studio to a deserted drive-in at the edge of the desert. Between the shooting locales and a fitting soundtrack that runs X to Los Lobos to the Blasters to the Lazy Cowgirls to Chris E. to Billy Wisdom, the trio of Anders, Voss and Lent wear their love and tightness with the early ’80 L.A. indie punk rock scene on their filmmaking sleeve. That devotion isn’t any clearer than on the audio commentary version of the film by Anders and Voss which by its lonesome is a priceless walk down memory lane. Like just about all DVDs from the Criterion Collection, this release is chock full of director-approved extras. Restored via high-definition digital transfer, they include two audio commentaries (the aforementioned Anders and Voss variant and another with actors Luanna Anders, Dave Alvin, Chris D., John Doe, and Chris Shearer), a 2002 documentary on the making of Border Radio, nine deleted scenes, a music video of the Flesh Eaters, a stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes photos, a theatrical trailer and radio spot, biographies of cast and crew, and an essay by music journalist and critic Chris Morris. If you dug the scene, you’ll dig this re-release. (For information on Border Radio, check out www.criterionco.com.)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)<...