ABBA: The Movie (1977; Australia/Sweden; Eastmancolor; 95m) ***½ d. Lasse Hallström; w. Lasse Hallström, Robert Caswell; ph. Jack Churchill, Paul Onorato; m. Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Stig Anderson. Cast: Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stig Anderson. An incompetent radio DJ tries to get an interview with the Swedish pop group ABBA during their famous week-long 1977 tour of Australia. This semi-documentary is both charming and entertaining making the most of both the impressive concert footage of a band at their peak and the side-story of hapless journalist following them. Hughes manages to keep this diversion both funny and diverting. The songs (including “Dancing Queen”, “The Name of the Game”, “Eagle”, “Fernando”, “Waterloo” and many more) are performed with the band’s distinctive polish but retain an energy that gives their adoring audience exactly what they want. Anyone looking for more depth should look elsewhere. [U]
ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE (2013; New Zealand; Colour; 92m) **** d. Anthony Powell; w. Anthony Powell; ph. Anthony Powell; m. David Donaldson, Plan 9, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick. Documentary. A visually stunning chronicle of what it is like to live in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, and enduring months of darkness in the coldest place on Earth. Powell’s film is a personal document of his ten years working in Antarctica, contrasting life in the summer months, when thousands of scientists descend on the continent to that in the winter (spent at times in total darkness) when only a skeleton staff remain. His use of time-lapse photography creates some stunning images of seasonal change and barren icy landscapes as well as the stunning aurora. Powell expertly captures the reality of life in an unforgiving environment through demonstrating the impacts of extreme weather and isolation through his visuals and interviews with personnel from both McMurdo and Scott bases. An often stunning and honest account of what to many will seem like an alien environment.