10 December 2007

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Wes Anderson

Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray.

Steve Zissou (Murray) is an oceanographer and documentary film maker. To say he is eccentric is to describe fascists as angry people. When his partner, Estaban (Seymour Cassell), dies due to a shark attack, Zissou sets off to avenge his partner's death. Known only as the "jaguar shark", Zissou and his gang face illegitimate children, not so legitimate illegitimate children, former wives, pirates and each other's eccentricities in their quest to kill the creature.

This larger than life comedy proves how little mankind knows about aquatic life. In particular, it proves how little a man named Steve Zissou knows about aquatic life. Follow mister Zissou on a journey of debauchery, piracy, pregnancy and even bankruptcy.

This film is critically misunderstood, commercially unsuccessful and highly underrated. Anderson studied philosophy at the University of Texas. His plays on meaning are similar to those of David Lynch, except Lynch plays with signifiers and the signified from a horror/thriller perspective. Anderson takes the lighthearted approach by dealing with questions about truth and meaning with a healthy dose of dry wit.

For entertainment value, the film has ups and downs at a very appropriate pace and the delivery is right on the money. Cate Blanchett is her usual glamorous self, even donning khaki clothes and a pregnant belly. Luke and Owen Wilson are entertaining enough, but the star of the show is undeniably Bill Murray. He looks so convincing in his role as Steve Zissou that one wonders whether this isn't actually a documentary film.

You will need to watch this film a few times to catch all the fake aquatic species, the more subtle jests and just to enjoy the dry humour again.

If you enjoyed Anderson's previous film, The Royal Tenenbaums, prepare yourself for something completely different. You do not need a red cap and a speedo to enjoy this film, but it helps.


1 comment:

B-Sol said...

I love Anderson, but this is my least favorite of his films. I find it a bit on the pretentious side.

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