Rewatched Jun 09, 2012
Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
Nearing the end of my Wes Anderson rediscovery, today came the re-watch of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, one which I actually wasn't looking forward to very much. I had tried watching the film again a year ago (after having greatly enjoyed it several years back) and found myself having to turn it off after about an hour out of utter boredom. I was nervous this would happen again, but I must have been in a foul mood or something that day because here I wasn't bored one bit. The Life Aquatic doesn't move as any of Anderson's other films and at a running time of two hours it's easily his longest film to date, but it's slower pacing is actually part of it's charm.
While his other films build their worlds within the confines of the lives of the characters he creates, Life Aquatic takes to the sea and presents Anderson's grandest scope to this point. A lot of the action takes place on the boat of Steve Zissou, but it's still a much more open environment than we were used to seeing from him. The set is intricately detailed of course, down to the smallest detail for obsessive eyes to focus on and dissect. Inspired by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Zissou is a man at home on the open sea and you can feel that passion of his in Anderson's direction.
Anderson has certainly built his own world with his films, slightly removed from the real one, but each film of his takes careful aim to focus on unique aspects of the world of his mind. These characters are out there, with Team Zissou presented as a band of (mostly) men who are starting to crack apart at the seams after years of being together, representative of the man himself starting to crumble. The Life Aquatic is a lot of things, from a story of revenge to a story of a father and son coming together after estranged decades, but most of all it's about Zissou's own personal redemption.
Played by Bill Murray, Zissou is going through a heavy mid-life crisis. He hasn't done anything successful in a decade, his best friend has just died, his rival is constantly down his throat, his wife is as gone from him as his newly found son once was and his crew is starting to doubt their leader. He has everything working against him and all he wants is one great thing to put him back on top. Zissou is a classic Anderson character; someone who is incredibly narcissistic and arrogant and yet somehow there's this charm and sincerity to them that makes it impossible not to root for them to succeed.
Zissou on paper is a real bastard, but there's something about him that draws you to him and makes you want him to reach his goal. It's a beautiful thing and Murray perfectly captures his spirit with his dry wit and nonchalance. His style of humor has always been suited for Wes and the two are a team as good as any in film today. The supporting cast is all great, with Cate Blanchett and Willem Dafoe in particular stealing plenty of scenes, but it's Murray who drives this picture along with Anderson.
It's a slower film than Wes usually presents, but it's no less emotionally sound than anything else he's done, building to an absolutely beautiful climax. Despite having the largest budget for a film of his yet, Anderson still elected to use a lot of stop-motion for the aquatic creatures in the film and it presents this really unique and interesting look. It's slightly difficult to adjust to at first, but it totally fits into Anderson's world and eventually becomes somehow more majestic than if he had slaved over some computer to build special effect works.
Music again plays a big part in the film and again Anderson makes the soundtrack completely unique within his own world but still fitting his vision, having Seu Jorge (who plays a part in the film as well) taking a catalog of David Bowie tracks and adapting them into Portuguse and to his own style. It's a bizarre and incredibly bold choice, and of course it works completely for what Wes achieves here.