Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Life Aquatic

Yesterday I promised that I'd put up a couple of movie posts; one about The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and one about I (Heart) Huckabees. This will be the first.

First of all, I'd like to say that I can understand how some people didn't like The Life Aquatic. It's got an exceedingly dry sense of humor, and it's quite detached most of the time. We rarely see much by way of real emotion from the characters. That having been said, I loved it.

Bill Murray is a joy to watch (I just watched Rushmore last night, and now I've got a hankerin' for Ghostbusters). He delivers his performance with a deadpan charm that doesn't let us doubt for a minute that he's the disillusioned, past-his-prime documentarian Steve Zissou. In fact, aside from Owen Wilson's disappointing performance (seemingly more due to a weakly written part rather than Wilson's ability), the acting was uniformly excellent.

The plot is almost secondary. Zissou is a documentarian in the mold of Jacques Cousteau, out to kill the shark that ate his friend. He has all of Team Zissou along with him, including his recently-discovered illegitimate son, Ned (Owen Wilson). During the course of their expedition, they weather a pirate attack and a daring rescue mission, among other things.

But what's really astounding to me about the film, aside from its brilliantly dry wit, are the cinematography and the music. In watching Wes Anderson's films (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and I haven't yet seen Bottle Rocket), it occurs to me in watching the framing of his shots, the lighting, the slow motion, etc., that he's truly an artist among mere filmmakers. He does a lot to make his movies have a distinctly visually appealing quality that I love.

The soundtrack of The Life Aquatic consists mostly of David Bowie songs, performed beautifully by a lone man with an acoustic guitar. In Portuguese. "Changes," "Ziggy Stardust," "Space Oddity," and more, and all beautifully rendered. It helps to define the unique feel of the movie, to have such unique music. And more than that, the film's music is nearly omnipresent. Louder than most film music (a trademark of Anderson's), we come away with the impression that Anderson is trying to say more with the music than, "It was too quiet at this point and I like this song."

All in all, a fantastic movie, from my point of view.