The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic (2004) movie poster

(2004) dir. Wes Anderson
viewed: 09/09/06

I’d seen this film originally in the theater when it came out (during a period that I wasn’t updating this diary), and I’d enjoyed it significantly, as I had enjoyed Anderson’s other works, Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), and The Royal Tennenbaums (2001), and I guess was pretty primed to enjoy this one.  On initial viewing, I felt it echoed an emotional sentiment that reeked of Tennenbaums, considerably, in the protagonist is an aging egotist, who is also incredibly sensitive and insecure and despite his selfishness, is loved by the complex and intelligent people around him despite how much they despise him too.  Not to mention that half the cast is exactly the same.

Not to criticize the extent of Anderson’s foci, he creates a full, and well-imagined world of Zissou.  I love the costuming and the schtick with the red woolly caps and the Zissou-wear, including Nike shoes.  The characters are not well-rounded, but well-conceived, funny and strange in their imagining, while always feeling a little “put-on”.  Anderson does nice work, as well, aesthetically, framing shots in interesting ways, creating scenes that fail to feel “natural” while still being amusing and clever.  Somehow he comments on this in Zissou’s own film productions where genuine moments are exploited if possible and if not are re-created with complete faux empathy.  This seems self-reflective but I take it no further.

Bill Murray is brilliant.  I mean, I think that he’s brilliant in general, in all of his work.  But this character, I think, is the best he’s ever played.  It’s a mixture of sadness, self-loathing, self-love, and insecurity, all while deep down an exuding and predominant genius and wonder that attracts the world around him.  There is an artifice to the film, which I think Anderson acknowledges, but it also evokes a genuine sense of his character that juts forth from the strange menagerie of characters with whom he lives and interacts.  It is both fun and sad.

I bought the DVD used on Netflix for $6.50, which is a comment in itself.  I buy hardly any DVD’s.  This one was incredibly cheap and was a Criterion DVD.  It made sense.  It is good.

The other utterly significant thing about this film are the David Bowie songs performed acoustically by Seo Jorge.  I bought the CD of his songs, not the soundtrack, but the 100% Jorge/Bowie songs and it’s utterly fucking brilliant.  It adds an atmosphere to the film that is hard to describe.  It’s something sad and yet uplifting, mesmerizing and yet…who knows?  It’s je ne sais quois.  It’s a unique and clever film.  And despite the strangely animated fish which bothered me on the first viewing, I think it’s pretty great.

Let me know if you would like to borrow it.

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