Border Radio


1h 24m 1987
Border Radio

Brief Synopsis

Two musicians try to find their bandleader, who's disappeared after stealing their fee from a crooked club owner.

Film Details

Also Known As
Graniczne radio
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Experimental
Music
Film Noir
Release Date
1987
Distribution Company
Strand Releasing
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m

Synopsis

A rock star runs off to Mexico with money stolen from a club. The club owner, girlfriend and roadie all try to catch up with him.

Photo Collections

Border Radio - Movie Poster
Border Radio - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Promo

Film Details

Also Known As
Graniczne radio
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Experimental
Music
Film Noir
Release Date
1987
Distribution Company
Strand Releasing
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 24m

Articles

Border Radio


While the luckless protagonists of classic film noir scenarios tend to be men, the plots themselves are driven with near-exclusivity by women - Ann Savage in Detour (1945), Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946), Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950). This distaff custom is carried forward in the noir-inflected Border Radio (1987) but the tradition is given a few unexpected twists. Conceived, written and directed by a trio of UCLA film students, the project began as a straight genre exercise but morphed over the course of three arduous, cash-strapped years of shooting into a showcase for musicians prominent in the So-Cal punk subculture. Despite the prominent casting of Flesheaters frontman Chris D. and John Doe (bassist/singer for the band X) as brooding rocker nogoodniks, Border Radio's heart and soul is the good woman who has to clean up after the bad boys. As played by Luanna Anders (sister of co-writer/co-director Allison Anders), the hard-bitten, wary-eyed Lu is etched as a dreamer deferred, a proto riot grrrl biting back her anger to raise the lovechild from her union with Chris D.'s Jeff Bailey (the name cadged from Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past, 1947) while her man hoofs it to Mexico with a thousand stolen dollars and a battered acoustic guitar.

Given that French film critics codified film noir in the 1950s, it is only fitting that Border Radio adopts an attitude toward its own plot of nouvelle vague insouciance. In Robert Siodmak's noir classic The Killers (1946), Burt Lancaster's betrayed Swede sweats out his karmic comeuppance alone in a darkened room but here Jeff Bailey chills on a stretch of Mexican beach, under the shade of a bamboo palapa. Likewise, Lu is far from a Breathless (1960) style destroyer; having parked their kid (co-writer/director Allison Anders' daughter Devon) with an ex-lover, Lu dutifully sets out to bring Jeff home to Los Angeles despite the likelihood that the journey is yet another lost cause.

Unlike the classic film noir titles, Border Radio is less interested in issues of loyalty, seduction, deception and fate than in a consideration of the nature of art and theft, whether in the form of homage, influence or even vision-compromising studio remixes. A scene-bridging conversation between a trio of underworld goons ("F*ck The Clash, man...all those bands just ripped off everything from Iggy and the Stooges") en route to mete out punishment anticipates the geek soliloquies of Quentin Tarantino, whose early successes changed the shape and substance of American independent cinema, making it harder for truly independent, homebrewed cinema to find an audience.

"In those days you gave a band a chance," laments one of Border Radio's minor characters. "These days all they want is professionalism. They'll boo you offstage if you're not slick enough." The rare pastiche that preserves as much as it appropriates, Border Radio provides contemporary viewers with fleeting glances of a number of long-gone Los Angeles landmarks, among them Atwater Village's Hully Gully Studios, Chinatown's Hong Kong Café and the punk flophouse Disgraceland, then owned by Jayne Mansfield's widower, bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. Shot guerrilla style, without permits and on portable 16mm equipment "borrowed" from the UCLA film department (and smuggled into Mexico), the film suffers from occasional self consciousness on the part of the players but the narcissistic digressions of the dramatis personae suit the caprices of characters coasting on the downward arc of their youth.

Co-writers/directors Anders and Kurt Voss had interned on the set of Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984), an obvious touchstone that shares with Border Radio a sense of loss and ravening regret. During the post-production, the filmmakers drafted a number of 80s era A-list celebrities, including Wenders and Daryl Hannah (Luanna Anders was then dating the "manny" who minded the children of Hannah's boyfriend, musician Jackson Browne) to lend support but seed money came from Hollywood character actor Vic Tayback, a family friend of Kurt Voss. Tayback had been one of the stars of the long-running CBS sitcom Alice (1976-1985), a spinoff of Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974).

While Allison Anders, Kurt Voss and Dean Lent went on to further cinematic adventures (in writing, directing and cinematography, collectively and separately), and both Chris D. and John Doe enjoyed additional film roles (Doe turned in glowering cameos for Wayne Wang's Slamdance (1987) and Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) while Chris D. was ignominiously kicked in the nuts by Kevin Costner in Roger Donaldson's No Way Out [1987]), Border Radio remains the star credit for leading lady Luanna Anders. (In an early draft of the script, the character of Lu was killed off but none of Anders' male costars wanted to be the murderer.) Though acting classes and a string of agent meet-and-greets followed, Anders found the prospect of marketing herself in Hollywood unappealing after the communal effort of making her first film. When the production of Gas, Food, Lodging (1992), co-directed by Allison Anders and Kurt Voss and shot by Dean Lent, decamped to Los Angeles for a week of interior shooting, Luanna was drafted as a set dresser. An association with production designer Jane Ann Stewart got her work behind-the-scenes on Bernard Rose's Candyman (1992) and the HBO anthology series Inside Out before motherhood and home life took Luanna Anders out of the industry for good. She did reunite in 2005 with her Border Radio collaborators to record an audio commentary for the film's induction into the esteemed Criterion Film Collection.

Producer: Marcus DeLeon
Director: Allison Anders, Dean Lent, Kurt Voss
Screenplay: Allison Anders, Dean Lent, Kurt Voss
Cinematography: Dean Lent
Music: Dave Alvin
Cast: Chris D. (Jeff Bailey), Chris Shearer (Chris), Dave Alvin (Dave), Devon Anders (Devon), Luanna Anders (Lu).
BW-87m.

by Richard Harland Smith

Sources:
"Border Radio: Where Punk Lived" by Chris Morris, Border Radio DVD, Criterion Collection
Telephone interview with Luanna Anders, August 18, 2010
Allison Anders interview by Bette Gordon, Bomb, No. 48, Summer 1994
Allison Anders/Kurt Voss interview by Bob Blackwelder, Splice, August 1999
Border Radio

Border Radio

While the luckless protagonists of classic film noir scenarios tend to be men, the plots themselves are driven with near-exclusivity by women - Ann Savage in Detour (1945), Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946), Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950). This distaff custom is carried forward in the noir-inflected Border Radio (1987) but the tradition is given a few unexpected twists. Conceived, written and directed by a trio of UCLA film students, the project began as a straight genre exercise but morphed over the course of three arduous, cash-strapped years of shooting into a showcase for musicians prominent in the So-Cal punk subculture. Despite the prominent casting of Flesheaters frontman Chris D. and John Doe (bassist/singer for the band X) as brooding rocker nogoodniks, Border Radio's heart and soul is the good woman who has to clean up after the bad boys. As played by Luanna Anders (sister of co-writer/co-director Allison Anders), the hard-bitten, wary-eyed Lu is etched as a dreamer deferred, a proto riot grrrl biting back her anger to raise the lovechild from her union with Chris D.'s Jeff Bailey (the name cadged from Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past, 1947) while her man hoofs it to Mexico with a thousand stolen dollars and a battered acoustic guitar. Given that French film critics codified film noir in the 1950s, it is only fitting that Border Radio adopts an attitude toward its own plot of nouvelle vague insouciance. In Robert Siodmak's noir classic The Killers (1946), Burt Lancaster's betrayed Swede sweats out his karmic comeuppance alone in a darkened room but here Jeff Bailey chills on a stretch of Mexican beach, under the shade of a bamboo palapa. Likewise, Lu is far from a Breathless (1960) style destroyer; having parked their kid (co-writer/director Allison Anders' daughter Devon) with an ex-lover, Lu dutifully sets out to bring Jeff home to Los Angeles despite the likelihood that the journey is yet another lost cause. Unlike the classic film noir titles, Border Radio is less interested in issues of loyalty, seduction, deception and fate than in a consideration of the nature of art and theft, whether in the form of homage, influence or even vision-compromising studio remixes. A scene-bridging conversation between a trio of underworld goons ("F*ck The Clash, man...all those bands just ripped off everything from Iggy and the Stooges") en route to mete out punishment anticipates the geek soliloquies of Quentin Tarantino, whose early successes changed the shape and substance of American independent cinema, making it harder for truly independent, homebrewed cinema to find an audience. "In those days you gave a band a chance," laments one of Border Radio's minor characters. "These days all they want is professionalism. They'll boo you offstage if you're not slick enough." The rare pastiche that preserves as much as it appropriates, Border Radio provides contemporary viewers with fleeting glances of a number of long-gone Los Angeles landmarks, among them Atwater Village's Hully Gully Studios, Chinatown's Hong Kong Café and the punk flophouse Disgraceland, then owned by Jayne Mansfield's widower, bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. Shot guerrilla style, without permits and on portable 16mm equipment "borrowed" from the UCLA film department (and smuggled into Mexico), the film suffers from occasional self consciousness on the part of the players but the narcissistic digressions of the dramatis personae suit the caprices of characters coasting on the downward arc of their youth. Co-writers/directors Anders and Kurt Voss had interned on the set of Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984), an obvious touchstone that shares with Border Radio a sense of loss and ravening regret. During the post-production, the filmmakers drafted a number of 80s era A-list celebrities, including Wenders and Daryl Hannah (Luanna Anders was then dating the "manny" who minded the children of Hannah's boyfriend, musician Jackson Browne) to lend support but seed money came from Hollywood character actor Vic Tayback, a family friend of Kurt Voss. Tayback had been one of the stars of the long-running CBS sitcom Alice (1976-1985), a spinoff of Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). While Allison Anders, Kurt Voss and Dean Lent went on to further cinematic adventures (in writing, directing and cinematography, collectively and separately), and both Chris D. and John Doe enjoyed additional film roles (Doe turned in glowering cameos for Wayne Wang's Slamdance (1987) and Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) while Chris D. was ignominiously kicked in the nuts by Kevin Costner in Roger Donaldson's No Way Out [1987]), Border Radio remains the star credit for leading lady Luanna Anders. (In an early draft of the script, the character of Lu was killed off but none of Anders' male costars wanted to be the murderer.) Though acting classes and a string of agent meet-and-greets followed, Anders found the prospect of marketing herself in Hollywood unappealing after the communal effort of making her first film. When the production of Gas, Food, Lodging (1992), co-directed by Allison Anders and Kurt Voss and shot by Dean Lent, decamped to Los Angeles for a week of interior shooting, Luanna was drafted as a set dresser. An association with production designer Jane Ann Stewart got her work behind-the-scenes on Bernard Rose's Candyman (1992) and the HBO anthology series Inside Out before motherhood and home life took Luanna Anders out of the industry for good. She did reunite in 2005 with her Border Radio collaborators to record an audio commentary for the film's induction into the esteemed Criterion Film Collection. Producer: Marcus DeLeon Director: Allison Anders, Dean Lent, Kurt Voss Screenplay: Allison Anders, Dean Lent, Kurt Voss Cinematography: Dean Lent Music: Dave Alvin Cast: Chris D. (Jeff Bailey), Chris Shearer (Chris), Dave Alvin (Dave), Devon Anders (Devon), Luanna Anders (Lu). BW-87m. by Richard Harland Smith Sources: "Border Radio: Where Punk Lived" by Chris Morris, Border Radio DVD, Criterion Collection Telephone interview with Luanna Anders, August 18, 2010 Allison Anders interview by Bette Gordon, Bomb, No. 48, Summer 1994 Allison Anders/Kurt Voss interview by Bob Blackwelder, Splice, August 1999

Border Radio - BORDER RADIO - 1987 Indie Film Debut for Directors Allison Anders, Kurt Voss & Cinematographer Dean Lent


A crime caper/road movie shot on the fly by three UCLA film students over the course of four arduous years against the backdrop of the dying Cal-Punk subculture, Border Radio (1987) includes in its end credits crawl "many curses on those who tried to thwart us." Postscript jokes and jabs are all the rage among indie filmmakers working in the digital age but twenty years ago the makers of Border Radio had to rub-on their credits one letter at a time; knowing that makes their collective bitterness all the more intense and their perseverance in the face of adversity that much more admirable. Given a limited release in 1988 and seen most commonly via video tape and rep screenings, the $82,000 production was a labor of love that never would have been made had its directors not been drunk on youth, aspiration, blissful ignorance, and cheep Mexican beer. "Working with nothing" but $2,000 in seed money donated by, of all people, Vic Tayback (then flush from a regular paycheck on the CBS sitcom Alice) and stealing services from their alma mater's film department by dark of night, Allison Anders, Kurt Voss and Dean Lent captured a moment in American rock history that had all but vanished by the time they sent their last foot of 16mm reversal stock through the camera.

The sketchy plot, elliptically rendered via unreliable character testimony (and then tossed out the car window after an hour with Nouvelle Vague insouciance) finds up-and-coming punk rocker Jeff Bailey (Flesh Eaters frontman Chris D, now a respected film programmer and historian) getting the hell out of Dodge after ripping off a stingy club owner for a thousand dollars and a handful of Quaaludes. Desperate to learn of Jeff's whereabouts, common law wife Lu (Luanna Anders, sister of Allison) presses bickering bandmates Dean (John Doe) and Chris (Chris Shearer) but is only able to determine that Jeff is probably hiding out down in Mexico. Calling off a casual affair with Chris but leaving her young daughter in his dubious care, Lu sells her car to square Jeff's debt and follows the absent father of her child south of the border.

Made pre-Sundance, before American independent cinema became a VIP lounge for Hollywood headliners killing time between big ticket gigs, Border Radio is refreshingly grungy and down-at-heel, partly due to its 16mm origins and partly in visual allegiance to Cassavetes and Godard, to Wim Wenders and Robert Altman, as well as to Michael Apted's 28 Up, whose to-camera question and answer interviews it co-opts. Despite its stylistic debts, Border Radio never feels studied or hobbled by its influences. The style is rangy and loose, and while the acting is at times self-indulgent it does feel true to the characters' hunger, their pretensions and self-delusions. Some of the production's more lyrical moments were unplanned (a run of wild horses on Ensenada Beach) and throughout offers a rear view of a Los Angeles that no longer exists. Footage was grabbed in such defunct punk landmarks as Chinatown's Hong Kong Café, Hollywood's Disgraceland and the Hully Gully Studios in Atwater Village. Filling out the grubby mis-en-scene are dozens of cut-and-paste posters for such punk bands as D.O.A., the Alley Cats and Human Hands, and nods to the short-lived Burbank venue Joey Kills, the old Rockaway Records and the New Beverly Cinema. Co-director Allison Anders saw her daughter Devon (cast as sister Luanna's love child) grow from ages 7 to 11 and outgrow all of her original costumes.

"We had thugs talking pop culture long before... certain individuals," Allison Anders laughs early on in an amusing and warm director's commentary that she shares with former lover and continuing collaborator Kurt Voss. They're fun tour guides, providing information (and whereabouts) on bit players, costume pieces and even background bric-a-brac and remarking how Border Radio's best shots could never have been captured on a professional studio shooting schedule. A more rambling but no less informative and friendly commentary comes courtesy of stars Chris D., Luanna Anders, John Doe, Chris Shearer and Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin (who appears in the film as a rockabilly snitch who sings his information). It is at times difficult to distinguish between the male speakers here but the talk is fun and presents another side of the making-of, with the actors bitching about not being able to cut their hair for three years. Doe and Alvin laugh off the script's lack of savvy about the record business and Alvin identifies a music cue for which Oliver Stone later paid $15,000 to use in Wall Street (1987). It's an oversight and a shame that neither of the commentaries broach the subject of how the late Vic Tayback came to be associated with the project, a fact only alluded to in Chris Morris' otherwise excellent liner notes.

A comprehensive assortment of extras is grouped under the collective title "Highway 5 Revisited." Made in 2002, "The Making of Border Radio" is short and sweet at 15 minutes and consists of talking head testimonials from all of the principal players, including co-director and cinematographer Dean Lent. The featurette repeats some material from the commentaries but the stories are good no matter how many times you hear them. Anders and Voss discuss how their intended straight-up noir feature morphed into a rock film as they added more club musicians to the cast. A theatrical trailer, radio spot, deleted scenes, cast/crew bios, a gallery of haunting production stills taken in Echo Park by Dean Lent and a Flesh Eaters video are all included in the bonus package.

Another unexpected pearl from The Criterion Collection, Border Radio is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with the image slightly pillarboxed for playback on widescreen monitors. Although the disc boasts a high bit rate throughout, it bears mentioning that the source material was particularly vulnerable to surface damage. A digital clean-up was carried out from the original 16mm source but Border Radio remains coyote ugly, as intended. It's like the man said... it ain't the years, it's the mileage.

For more information about Border Radio, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Border Radio, go to TCM Shopping.

by Richard Harland Smith

Border Radio - BORDER RADIO - 1987 Indie Film Debut for Directors Allison Anders, Kurt Voss & Cinematographer Dean Lent

A crime caper/road movie shot on the fly by three UCLA film students over the course of four arduous years against the backdrop of the dying Cal-Punk subculture, Border Radio (1987) includes in its end credits crawl "many curses on those who tried to thwart us." Postscript jokes and jabs are all the rage among indie filmmakers working in the digital age but twenty years ago the makers of Border Radio had to rub-on their credits one letter at a time; knowing that makes their collective bitterness all the more intense and their perseverance in the face of adversity that much more admirable. Given a limited release in 1988 and seen most commonly via video tape and rep screenings, the $82,000 production was a labor of love that never would have been made had its directors not been drunk on youth, aspiration, blissful ignorance, and cheep Mexican beer. "Working with nothing" but $2,000 in seed money donated by, of all people, Vic Tayback (then flush from a regular paycheck on the CBS sitcom Alice) and stealing services from their alma mater's film department by dark of night, Allison Anders, Kurt Voss and Dean Lent captured a moment in American rock history that had all but vanished by the time they sent their last foot of 16mm reversal stock through the camera. The sketchy plot, elliptically rendered via unreliable character testimony (and then tossed out the car window after an hour with Nouvelle Vague insouciance) finds up-and-coming punk rocker Jeff Bailey (Flesh Eaters frontman Chris D, now a respected film programmer and historian) getting the hell out of Dodge after ripping off a stingy club owner for a thousand dollars and a handful of Quaaludes. Desperate to learn of Jeff's whereabouts, common law wife Lu (Luanna Anders, sister of Allison) presses bickering bandmates Dean (John Doe) and Chris (Chris Shearer) but is only able to determine that Jeff is probably hiding out down in Mexico. Calling off a casual affair with Chris but leaving her young daughter in his dubious care, Lu sells her car to square Jeff's debt and follows the absent father of her child south of the border. Made pre-Sundance, before American independent cinema became a VIP lounge for Hollywood headliners killing time between big ticket gigs, Border Radio is refreshingly grungy and down-at-heel, partly due to its 16mm origins and partly in visual allegiance to Cassavetes and Godard, to Wim Wenders and Robert Altman, as well as to Michael Apted's 28 Up, whose to-camera question and answer interviews it co-opts. Despite its stylistic debts, Border Radio never feels studied or hobbled by its influences. The style is rangy and loose, and while the acting is at times self-indulgent it does feel true to the characters' hunger, their pretensions and self-delusions. Some of the production's more lyrical moments were unplanned (a run of wild horses on Ensenada Beach) and throughout offers a rear view of a Los Angeles that no longer exists. Footage was grabbed in such defunct punk landmarks as Chinatown's Hong Kong Café, Hollywood's Disgraceland and the Hully Gully Studios in Atwater Village. Filling out the grubby mis-en-scene are dozens of cut-and-paste posters for such punk bands as D.O.A., the Alley Cats and Human Hands, and nods to the short-lived Burbank venue Joey Kills, the old Rockaway Records and the New Beverly Cinema. Co-director Allison Anders saw her daughter Devon (cast as sister Luanna's love child) grow from ages 7 to 11 and outgrow all of her original costumes. "We had thugs talking pop culture long before... certain individuals," Allison Anders laughs early on in an amusing and warm director's commentary that she shares with former lover and continuing collaborator Kurt Voss. They're fun tour guides, providing information (and whereabouts) on bit players, costume pieces and even background bric-a-brac and remarking how Border Radio's best shots could never have been captured on a professional studio shooting schedule. A more rambling but no less informative and friendly commentary comes courtesy of stars Chris D., Luanna Anders, John Doe, Chris Shearer and Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin (who appears in the film as a rockabilly snitch who sings his information). It is at times difficult to distinguish between the male speakers here but the talk is fun and presents another side of the making-of, with the actors bitching about not being able to cut their hair for three years. Doe and Alvin laugh off the script's lack of savvy about the record business and Alvin identifies a music cue for which Oliver Stone later paid $15,000 to use in Wall Street (1987). It's an oversight and a shame that neither of the commentaries broach the subject of how the late Vic Tayback came to be associated with the project, a fact only alluded to in Chris Morris' otherwise excellent liner notes. A comprehensive assortment of extras is grouped under the collective title "Highway 5 Revisited." Made in 2002, "The Making of Border Radio" is short and sweet at 15 minutes and consists of talking head testimonials from all of the principal players, including co-director and cinematographer Dean Lent. The featurette repeats some material from the commentaries but the stories are good no matter how many times you hear them. Anders and Voss discuss how their intended straight-up noir feature morphed into a rock film as they added more club musicians to the cast. A theatrical trailer, radio spot, deleted scenes, cast/crew bios, a gallery of haunting production stills taken in Echo Park by Dean Lent and a Flesh Eaters video are all included in the bonus package. Another unexpected pearl from The Criterion Collection, Border Radio is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with the image slightly pillarboxed for playback on widescreen monitors. Although the disc boasts a high bit rate throughout, it bears mentioning that the source material was particularly vulnerable to surface damage. A digital clean-up was carried out from the original 16mm source but Border Radio remains coyote ugly, as intended. It's like the man said... it ain't the years, it's the mileage. For more information about Border Radio, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Border Radio, go to TCM Shopping. by Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1988

Released in United States October 29, 1987

Released in United States on Video February 1, 1989

Released in United States September 16, 1988

Released in United States Summer September 2, 1988

Shown at AFI Independent Film Festival October 29, 1987.

Shown at Boston Film Festival September 16, 1988.

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 25-July 3, 1988.

Feature directorial debut for UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television classmates Kurt Voss, Allison Anders and Dean Lent.

Broadcast in USA over Sundance Channel as part of program "She Said Cinema" May 1-31, 1999.

Originally distributed in USA by International Film Marketing (IFM).

Released in United States 1988 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 25-July 3, 1988.)

Released in United States on Video February 1, 1989

Released in United States Summer September 2, 1988

Released in United States September 16, 1988 (Shown at Boston Film Festival September 16, 1988.)

Released in United States October 29, 1987 (Shown at AFI Independent Film Festival October 29, 1987.)