The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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Sweet_Baboo
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Post by Sweet_Baboo » Wed Dec 22, 2004 12:51 am

yeah, the Ping Island theme inspired me to look into this "i-tunes" thing and purchase a piece of music for $0.99.

i plan to play the song over and over tomorrow on my 6 hour drive home.

I agree that for me, too, that's when th movie finally clicked in my head.

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Post by PuzzleShift » Thu Dec 30, 2004 1:22 am

It was hilarious, but I agree that it's hard to tell where the film is heading for the first two thirds or so. Visually it drew me in more than Anderson's last film, but story wise it was a small step backwards. But on the whole, that's still a small complaint!

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Post by Johnny Neat » Thu Dec 30, 2004 7:46 am

I had to post regarding this flick. I love Wes Anderson's style and his last projects a hell of a lot, with the exception of Bottle Rockets which I, for unknown cosmic reasons, have sadly yet to see. This film though, this film is hollow, good ideas in every aspect, but Wes and company could not seem to get into a groove that had any real meaning. At times the film comes off like a wacky student film in it's lame campyness. I was sad, but not because of the supposed sad scenes, rather because of how cheesy and half hearted some parts were. I expect great character pieces from Wes, especially next time. It just this time, he shot a lot of ammo but rarely hit the mark to make a serious impression on me. So I agree with the lack of that something that was in his past projects.

For those that need to know, the Brazilian (Portuguese) singer is Seu Jorge. A Brazilian actor who most of us probably saw for the first time in the amazing film City of God (Cidade de Deus) as Mane Galinha aka Knockout Ned. And since I am on him, I want to add that his singing was good, but distracting after a while. It ruined the flow of the film after two appearances.
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Post by Ayo » Thu Dec 30, 2004 11:55 am

I saw it the night before last and oh yes, it was great.

We were commenting on the style of dialogue--how the characters didn't really speak to advance the plot so much as they did to reveal themselves as characters. Its a fragmented style--the script doesn't concern itself with what's "important" as much as it does with bringing the characters to life with an extremely casual, extremely relaxed dialogue style.

I agree that Rushmore is probably a better movie all around, but I really enjoyed the hell out of Life Aquatic. I love Anderson, I love boats, I love Bill Murray's man-child comedy style. I was almost in tears when he pulled the gun on Jane. That alone was worth the price of admission.

I didn't find the Portugese singer redundant at all. He provided one of the most interesting elements to the film--and served to break up the film in this odd, ethereal way.

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Post by kevinzilaa2000 » Thu Dec 30, 2004 9:58 pm

I’ll start off by saying that I love Wes Anderson’s movies more than life itself, and Life Aquatic is no exception. I saw Rushmore years ago when it first came out, and didn’t get it. Then later on I saw Royal Tenenbaums and loved it, so I went back and watched Rushmore and was blown away. Obviously during those years something changed because I was suddenly on a direct wavelength with all of his characters and scenes and worlds that he created. Naturally after that I went and unearthed Bottle Rocket and fell in love with it just the same as the others. So you can imagine that I was anticipating Life Aquatic from the moment I heard it was in production, and I had it pegged as the best movie of the year before I ever saw it.

So I went to see it Christmas Day with all of my hopes riding on it, and I admit that after my first viewing I was a little confused. I knew I liked it, but it wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting. For starters, there aren’t nearly as many jokes sprinkled throughout the screenplay as there are in Anderson’s other films. From the beginning, I was looking for every line to be pure comedy, but it was soon obvious that this wasn’t meant to be a funny movie. It’s a dramatic story about a pathetic man trying to regain some of the dignity he had previously in his life. It’s not funny material, and the movie never tries to make fun of it.

I knew I would have to see the movie a second time to fully grasp it, so I went again last night and was treated to a truly eye-opening experience. This movie is so deeply layered that the second viewing didn’t even feel like I was seeing the same movie. There are so many intricate and subtle relations between the characters that I failed to notice the first time. The most amazing part of the movie has to be the incredible change that Bill Murray’s character goes through, from whiney and bitter to self-reflective and ultimately humbled. Add to that the colorful side characters (Jeff Goldblum was perfect as Hennessey, and every member of Zissou’s crew had such unique personalities and antics), the incredible environments (the hotel overridden by jungle life, the Belafonte, the underwater volcanoes, the stop motion creatures underwater) and this movie ends up being perfect. On top of all that, there is some interesting symbolism I noticed the second time around –

****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!! ****

When the Belafonte is attacked by pirates, Zissou is brought on deck where he sees his entire crew bound and blindfolded. He himself is later blindfolded and there is a quick scene that shows the back of each character’s head and you can hear them talking to themselves. You will notice how starkly blue and gritty this scene is, perhaps representing the unpleasant reality of life. But when Zissou breaks free and attacks the pirates, the whole scene makes a sudden shift into warm colors. I think this is one of the most pivotal scenes in the film. I don’t know exactly what it means but my theory is that everything from that scene forward is supposed to be a fantasy in Steve’s mind. Consider how remarkable it is that one man is able to fight off an entire crew of pirates with one handgun. I think that in reality, Zissou and everyone else onboard was murdered by the pirates (“If we don’t handle this right, we’ll all be murdered.”), and the whole second half of the movie is Steve thinking about how he would have liked his life to wrap up.

Right after the pirates leave the ship, there is a natural phenomena in the sky, which Steve himself refers to as a miracle. I think this is supposed to represent a turning point where his character finally starts to change for the better. Everyone on the crew seems reflective after the attack. When Jane is on the phone talking to her editor, she begins to say “I feel like my life has just…”, but she never finishes saying what she was thinking, possibly suggesting that she is struggling to understand whether she is alive or dead.

I think it was necessary for Ned to die in Steve’s mind because as he said “I hate fathers and I never wanted to be one.” This is further confirmed when his wife tells Jane that Steve has been impotent his whole life.

When Zissou finally confronts the shark at the end, I think he is actually confronting all of his fears. He sees everything and everyone that he has lost, and understands that they are gone for good and it is time to move on. “I said those things, I did those things…” he says, right before seeing the shark, showing that he has accepted everything that happened in his life and there’s nothing he can do to change any of it. All that’s left is for him to say one last goodbye to the things he has lost. “I wonder if he remembers me.”

One last thing that I noticed, at the very end of the movie, if you sit through the credits for a while, you can watch Steve and the entire Belafonte crew (and Hennessey) running along the waterfront. Eventually they reach the ship and they all climb onboard. But if you look carefully, before anyone ever gets on, there is actually already a person on the very top of the ship. The mysterious person is wearing what looks like the Air Kentucky uniform that Ned was wearing at the beginning of the movie. I can only assume that the mysterious character is Ned, and he is perhaps placed there to clue the viewer into the fact that everyone on the ship is dead in real life. By placing a character in the scene who we know to be dead, we can only assume that everyone else in the scene must also be dead.

****END SPOILERS****

If you were able to sit through my long post, thanks, and I highly encourage you to see this movie. If you don’t like it the first time, see it a second time and maybe you will appreciate it more and notice some of the things that I pointed out.
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Post by Johnny Neat » Fri Dec 31, 2004 5:38 am

Man, I had to come back after reading this post kevinzilaa2000. Because your view and interpretation was pretty good. I would say you could be and are most likely right. It makes total sense and I want it to, because those shoot out scenes are badly silly and a killer to the film for me any othet way, but with this view everything wraps nicely in a bow. Also had I been able to stay through the whole credits, I maybe I'd have been able to think something close to this effect and would have been happy. So with this new view of the tale, it becomes a more decent movie to swallow and I thank you, as fellow Wes appreciator.
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Post by Joey » Fri Dec 31, 2004 10:30 am

Wow! Interesting interpretation Kevinzilaa2000! I'll have to look out for that when I see it for a second time.

Well, regardless, I liked the film. I felt this sort of "hollow" feeling that a lot of you are mentioning at the beginning of the film, but I thought by the end those qualities had been filled. The first thing that concerned me is that it was sort of a "battle of fake accents" and that's never good. But by the end of the film I was able to forget about it. This movie is totally set in a sort of Wes Anderson fantasy world, and I think it took some getting used to. Even when regarding character ineraction. I do remember really being worried at the beginning of the film, but by the end being totally into it. I felt what Bill Murray was feeling, and was moved by the scene with the shark at the end.

Well, probably by some time next week, I'll have seen it again, so I'll get back to you all about that when I see it!

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Post by dan » Tue Jan 04, 2005 6:36 am

just saw this last night. Holy cow is it good. :)

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Post by deantrippe » Wed Jan 05, 2005 2:43 pm

Finally saw it last night, and loved it. :D

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Post by WillisDrummond » Sat Jan 08, 2005 2:17 pm

I, too, am a member of WxAxHxC (wes anderson hard core), but I fall more in line with Kazu. I felt like I was kept at arm's length with the characters the entire movie, which is quite the opposite of Rushmore and Tenenbaums. I still enjoyed the film, but it wasn't on the level of the others.

Wow, Kevinzilla, I am really impressed by your analysis. I feel the film was all about Steve being confronted with his purpose in life and dealing with his desire to be a father, but the fear of becoming one. It's definitely there.
I'm so glad Anderson used stop-motion animation for the fish sequences. Gorgeous footage.
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Post by WillisDrummond » Wed Jan 12, 2005 1:26 pm

After a phone call with a good friend last night discussing Life Aquatic, I think I see why I didn't like it as much instantly as Anderson's previous work. You are really meant to be kept at arm's length from the characters, especially Zissou. Rushmore and Tenenbaums were emotional experiences. Life Aquatic invites more analysis.
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Post by jibanez » Fri Jan 14, 2005 6:11 am

***SPOILERS***

That's quite interesting, kevinzilaa2000. I noticed the shift in lighting, too, and kept waiting for the "fantasy" sequence to end. The only catch I see to your interpretation is that both Klaus's son and, if I remember correctly, Angelica Huston's character got on the boat as well during the credits yet they weren't present for the pirate attack. Then again, if it's all in Steve's as you suggest, that probably doesn't matter.

Anyway, great interpretation!!! Now I'm all thinking and stuff!
:shock:
***SPOILERS***

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Post by Siftland » Fri Jan 14, 2005 2:19 pm

Some people seem to not like this movie. I loved it, thought it was fantastic. But there's been a lot of backlash against it. I've got some theories as to why.

-Expectations. People want it to deliver on the same level/areas as Rushmore or Tennenbaums (ignoring the fact that it is a different movie, delivers in different areas, and that they most likely wouldn't be satisfied with "more of the same" anyway).

-They feel like Anderson is trying to impress them with quirky ideas, and the whole experience gets a bit too weird/disjointed for them.

Bottom Line: Anderson has made a movie that is totally madcap and unhinged, and that's a good thing. It's true to his vision, he didn't give any regard to what the audience wants to see. He made exactly the movie he wanted without compromise. And it's weird. People don't like when directors get confident in their vision and decide to experiment.

Gilliam has been doing it forever, and Tarantino has started to see the same love/hate backlash with Kill Bill. In fact, I think all the directors I really love have reached this point with their creativity. Once a director has confused the squares is when I'm totally in.

It may be true that this movie lacks the really tight structure and flow of Tennenbaums, but it's a different film, meant to mimic the structure of one of Steve's Documentaries. Besides, even if the movie had been completely devoid of character and plot due entirely to neglect on Anderson's part (which is not the case in my opinion), I still would have liked the movie. It simply is bursting at the seams with good ideas, great dialogue, and memorable stuff.

What a lot of people seemed to overlook, I think, is the way Anderson plays with reality and the audience's expectations. For instance, the fight scene, while hilarious, DID seem like a fantasy sequence that he was going to wake up out of. But he didn't! The film just said, 'okay that really happened. Moving on..." No other film ever made would have done that! It confused a lot of people, but, for me, it clued me into the nutty fantasy/reality themes in the movie. Also, when they encountered Goldblum's sunken ship, I thought they had staged that for their documentary and that the ship was a prop. Then later was shocked to realize that it DID sink and Goldblum was a captive of the pirates.

A lot of the stuff people just thought was weird I thought was brilliant. Normal movie-goers don't want the movie to question them at all, they want it to be comparable to something they've already seen. Everyone who says this is "Tennenbaums at Sea" is so wrong. It's the most original movie I've seen in a long time.

Anyway, it seems I've been having these sort of justifications for a lot of films I've loved lately. Screw general audiences, I want more movies like this that push the boundaries and create new experiences instead of rehashing old ones.

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Post by Kazu » Sat Jan 15, 2005 5:41 pm

Well, I still have to give this another look since it's likely that I may change my mind about it, but I still feel it failed at what it was trying to achieve. Most of the disjointed films that I love (like that of Jarmusch, Kubrick, even Seijun Suzuki) stick with me long after viewing them. This one, unfortunately, didn't. Not for lack of trying, but I really did get the feeling that the people on the set were not entirely sure what was going on...

Anyway, some interesting analyses of the film here. I really do wish I liked it as much as some of you did. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next Wes Anderson film...
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Post by WillisDrummond » Tue Jan 25, 2005 10:35 am

No Oscar nominations for Wes and co. Not even a costume or production design nod. I feel bad for Wes, but in some ways I'm glad, because rather than becoming a pop phenomenon, he is still "ours."
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