First off let me apologize for the delay. I’ve been busy packaging and finalizing my candy stuff to finally get up for sale on Etsy. Find it here at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/KarlsCandyCo
I also did a quick little review of a new album I received in the mail yesterday. Sleigh Bells’ Reign of Terror. Check that out as well while you peruse the blog-o-sphere.
Now, on to the review.
The second film on our journey through the filmography of Wes Anderson leads us to my number two favorite Anderson film yet, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
While still holding very much to the sadness and raw emotions that ooze from The Royal Tenenbaums, (Review up next), The Life Aquatic is a story of adventure, guilt, revenge, regret, loves lost and loves gained and the importance of friends and family.
So pretty much the same formula played out by every Wes Anderson film.
The Life Aquatic tells the tale of a seemingly washed up oceanographic documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew aboard the Belefonte. The film starts with Zissou showing his latest documentary at the Loquasto International Film Festival. The film is ill fated as it shows the death of Steve’s best friend and mentor Esteban at the hand of a shark that Steve can only describe as a Jaguar Shark.
This prompts Zissou to announce his next documentary is going to be dedicated to finding the Jaguar Shark and when asked what he plans to do when he does locate it. He replies,
“I’m going to find it and I’m going to destroy it. I don’t know how yet. Possibly with dynamite.”
That night Steve is confronted by one Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who claims to be Steve’s son. This comes as quite a shock to Steve but being a well rounded individual, invites Ned to come along on the next journey with himself and his crew.
Steve’s dedication to killing the beast is infectious among his crew and helpful interns who are tagging along in exchange for class credit. Due to monetary issues Steve is issued an accountant (Bud Cort from Harold and Maude) to keep track of the finances while at sea.
Steve’s wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) is one of the bigger bankrolls behind the Zissou Society’s productions but a growing rift between Eleanor and Steve makes money a bit of an issue.
Fast-forward a ways and Steve has essentially wiped his hands of all rational thought and means of finishing his hunt for the Jaguar Shark. It’s no longer a journey as much as an obsession that keeps Steve’s mind off his duty as a captain and leader and more on absurd methods and suicidal side missions including stealing from Hennessey’s off shore base and running headfirst into a Pirate run island resort to rescue his accountant and inadvertently Hennessey.
This all ends up wrapping back around like all Wes Anderson films where Steve begins to see the error of his ways. It doesn’t help his psyche that he’s constantly bombarded with questions from reporter Jane (Cate Blanchette) about his methods of shooting documentaries as well as how smart he actually is.
One of the reason this one ranks so high in my opinion on my favorite films is the playfulness that comes from this film. The characters are genuinely likable. Even the assholes that occasionally pop up, Jeff Goldblum’s Alistair Hennessey, is played with such vigor that you can’t help but love the fact that they’re there. The fish in the underwater scenes are vibrant, colorful and a joy to see flit across the screen.
The second main reason is the music. Again Anderson brought on the stylings of Mark Mothersbaugh to do the original score for Life Aquatic. Aside from Mothersbaugh’s great contribution to the film, most notably his songs; “We Call Them Pirates Out Here,” “Let me Tell You About My Boat,” and “Ping Island,” the other great thing about this soundtrack is the inclusion of Portuguese singer Seu Jorge. Seu plays Pele dos Santos, a member of the crew in charge of writing the music for the documentaries, but he mostly only sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, which is a great pleasure to listen to. His takes on “Queen Bitch” and “Live on Mars” are among the greatest takes on Bowie songs I have ever heard.
Aside from the official soundtrack to the film there is also an album that you can pick up called The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions Featuring Seu Jorge which is just a collection of his Bowie covers.
There is heartache felt through this film, you can feel the emotions that the characters have for each other. Most notably Willem Dafoe’s Klaus Daimler as he struggles non-stop to show his devotion to Steve and the Belefonte in general.
While this may be a slightly different take on Anderson’s style, it fits so well in his over all character that you want the movie to keep going well after the credits begin rolling.
There is something majestic about Murray’s portrayal of Zissou. No other actor could have made his dedication and despicability (At times) shine through the way Murray did. If you have not seen The Life Aquatic, you are missing out and should go and get it today.