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The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

A movie directed by Wes Anderson

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A beautiful, intelligent, and fun film

  • May 28, 2005
Rating:
+5
I loved this film from start to finish and it only got better the second and third times I watched it. There is a very nice feel to it: mellow, easy and cool, even when the action is on. This feel is perhaps captured best in the remarkably enjoyable Brazilian covers of classic David Bowie songs.

One thing worth noting about this film, beyond the "quirky" stylings that you expect from Wes Anderson (and that don't always come off, to my mind, as I just couldn't get in to The Royal Tenenbaums much as I wanted), is the way the film plays with and responds to the popularity of the "nature documentary," especially those of Jacques Cousteau. In the nature documentary, we feel as though we are getting "closer" to nature. We believe that we are getting at something real. What we tend to forget or be unaware of, is how much mediation is involved in the presentation of nature. The nature we see on film is never nature "as it is" but nature as it has been framed and captured in accordance with certain expectations of what will sell, what values will play to a wide audience.

It should also be remembered that this is a Disney film, and Wes Anderson appears to be very self-conscious of the fact that a large part of Disney's name and popularity was established through Disney wildlife films. Walt Disney himself once remarked that he saw his live action wildlife films to be merely an extension of his animations -- because he knew how much the editor and filmmaker are involved in showing what you want to show. What they did show was not Darwin's "nature red tooth and claw" but a sanitized nature, where danger was always contained, and family values were reinforced by the behaviors of animals: a mother and her pups, for example.

That, it seems to me, helps explain the fact that Wes Anderson chose not to employ "real" underwater animals but chose stop motion animation as his medium. It reminds us that nature appears on screen always mediated, through a "nature hero" (as Zissou once was) and through a set of decisions about what to include, how to edit it, what to value.

Anyhow, I could go on and on about what I liked and thought about this film, but I can say that I didn't expect to like this film but found myself surprised feeling very nice (and a bit odd, not sure what to think) about half way through and leaving with a smile and a hint of sadness as I walked the theater. Any film that can do that to someone as jaded as I am has something going for it.

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More The Life Aquatic with Steve Zi... reviews
Quick Tip by . November 03, 2010
A unique story, a great cast and an interesting setting. I really enjoyed this movie. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson this is a must see. This is probably my second favorite Wes Anderson movie, behind The Royal Tenenbaums.
review by . December 17, 2008
DVD
Jacques Cousteau-type filmmaker Steve Zissou is off to film his search for the jaguar shark that killed his partner. Among the motley crew aboard are his disinterested wife, a pregnant journalist, and a man who may be his son.     Bill Murray plays the title character with an unrelenting poker-face, so dour and expressionless that I couldn't relate to him at all. I kept waiting for some of the silliness that Murray does so well, but Steve remained a one-dimensional character …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #76
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Wiki

InThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, director Wes Anderson takes his familiar stable of actors on a field trip to a fantasy aquarium, complete with stop-motion, candy-striped crabs and rainbow seahorses. And though Anderson does expand his horizons in terms of retro-special effects and a whimsical use of color, fans will otherwise find themselves in well-charted waters. AsThe Life Aquaticopens, Zissou (Bill Murray), a self-involved, Jacques Cousteau-like filmmaker, has just released a documentary depicting the death of his best friend Esteban, who was eaten by some sort of sea creature--possibly a jaguar shark. Zissou’s troubles also include his waning popularity with the public, and a nemesis (Jeff Goldblum) who hogs up all the grant money. Hope arrives in the form of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), an amiable Kentuckian who may be Zissou’s son. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for fatherhood, Zissou welcomes Ned--and Ned in turn saves Zissou’s new documentary (in which he seeks revenge on the jaguar shark) in more ways than one.

One of Wes Anderson’s greatest achievements as a director to date has been launching the autumnal melancholy phase of Bill Murray’s career, starting withRushmorein 1998, and Murray delivers a similarly comedic yet low-key performance here. Unfortunately, Zissou is one of the few characters in this ensemble to achieve multi-dimensionality. Even co-star Wilson doesn’t get to develop Ned much beyond Noble Southerner, and...
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Details

Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Noah Baumbach
DVD Release Date: May 10, 2005
Runtime: 119 minutes
First to Review
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