– Spring/Summer 2002
Anatomies of the Image
This text is only available to subscribers
To subscribe to Afterall journal, starting with this issue, please click here.
Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this article individually, you may do so via the University of Chicago’s website.
English filmmaker Chris Petit's work on image and sound falls under the increasingly rare category of rebellious elusiveness. A film critic for Time Out during the 1970s, he moved behind the camera (like one of the last of the Mohicans of the European New Wave) with the elliptical version of a road movie, à la Hellman, during the triumphant Thatcher years (Radio On, 1979), only to then push himself, with the support of Wenders's Road Movies, towards a disquieting and ironic blend of 'lesser' genres such as the thriller and noir. (The same genres that, after having abandoned in his cinematic 'fiction', he developed as a writer in novels such as The Psalm Killer and Back from the Grave).
In the 1990s, Petit finally radically mutated the proportions of the ingredients of his filmmaking, thanks to the creative encounter (in the form of scornful conspiracy) with the highly talented writer Iain Sinclair (one of the few, along with Ballard, who is capable of giving new life to a genre like science fiction that has been rendered lifeless by film itself). Petit reached the height of his visionary talent honing a hybrid expressive voice of mystification/exploration of the real, a kind of dramatic mockumentary that has few elements to which it can be compared in contemporary filmmaking. It is as if the spirit of Marker's Sans Soleil and La Jetée were reincarnated with more advanced technology, the same technology of music videos and advertisements - in an eclectic mix of formats, techniques and filming solutions - to return to discussing, with poetry and disenchantment, the world's truth transformed into images of itself. The narrative glue and climactic background