Monday 10 December 2007

Antarctica - Vangelis' incredible journey

Koreyoshi Kurahara's 1983 movie Antarctica is based on Japan's first scientific expedition to the Antarctic in 1958. Inspired by a true story and filmed in a semi-documentary style, Antarctica attempts to piece together dramatically how the expedition's sled dogs cope when they are abandoned by the team forced to return to Japan because of bad weather.

Following in the footsteps of those great weepy creature features like Born Free, Ring of Bright Water, The Belstone Fox et al, Antarctica has some major eye-dabbing moments and by the time Vangelis' majestic and moving score kicks in, you may find yourself transformed into a blubbing heap of weeping humanity. There's no comic turns and funny voices applied to the dogs - they are given a dignity as befits them. Disney tried to remake Antarctica in 2006 as Eight Below but it lacked the power and raw emotion of the original.

Ken Takakura is magnificent and restrained as one of the guilt ridden scientists who returns to Antarctica to find the dogs. Takakura, you may recall was the Japanese policeman assigned to watch over Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia in Ridley Scott's Black Rain.

Vangelis really pulled out the stops with his rousing soundtrack for Antarctica, conveying the vast wilderness of the region as well as the many deeply emotional moments of the movie. An official soundtrack was released but an unofficial recording exists originally issued by Off World Music, who brought out some of the early Blade Runner bootlegs. It was later rereleased in equally unofficial form by Arkhan Records. The unofficial recording contains music taken directly from the film, and as a result certain tracks are a little muddy sounding but they are nevertheless beautiful to listen to. The sharp-eared among you will notice that one cue was recycled by Ridley Scott for the Unicorn Dream sequence in Blade Runner. It's worth purchasing the original soundtrack as well as hearing the unoffical version to get a real feel for the music.

I can't urge you enough to check out Antarctica. Those of you with multi-region players will be able to track down a region 3 copy easily. But a word of warning you may need to invest in industrial quantities of Kleenex whilst watching it. It's a bit like The Shawshank Redemption for animal lovers. You'll never look at a Husky the same way again. Long live Taro and Jiro.

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