Monday, March 21, 2005

The Life Aquatic

When I gladly left my workplace at 3:45 this afternoon, I took myself along to watch a movie called The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I have been looking forward to seeing this movie since seeing the preview many times this past month, before other movies. It looked like it would be a good one.
In the movie, the GREAT Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a man who makes marine life documentaries, like those made by Jacques Cousteau in the '70s. I was a kid in the seventies and remember many weekend afternoons watching these fascinating programs. Wes Anderson must have seen them, too, and obviously they made a strong impression on him, because in this movie, he has captured the goofy, heroic deep-sea adventurer style perfectly.
Anyway, Steve Zissou has been making these marine docos, but his career is going down the toilet, people seem to be wising up to the fakery going on in his films, but he must make another somehow, because during the making of his last one, his colleague and best friend was attacked and eaten by a mysterious Jaguar Shark, so, like Ahab and his mad quest for the White Whale, Zissou must quest for his Spotted Shark. By a great stroke of luck, he meets a young man (Ned, played by Owen Wilson, another actor I like, quite a likeable fellow) who may be his son, invites him to join his crew, and Ned offers to fund the mission with his inheritance.
There is a wonderful scene where Zissou gives Ned a tour of his ship (The Belafonte) and we see the entire ship in cross section, the camera swooping around from room to room, and we see members of the crew in each room, doing their thing. A memorable scene!
Another highlight was, or were, the various sea creatures shown up close. In one scene, a young boy presents Zissou with a gift: a spectacularly colourful seahorse in a water-filled plastic bag. The camera zooms in to a close-up shot of the seahorse, and it does a very amusing little dance. This was perhaps the best use of CGI technology I have seen in a movie in recent times.
I have to mention that not only is Bill Murray in this movie, but so too is Willem Defoe, who plays Klaus, one of Zissou's faithful crew members, who feels enormous admiration for his captain, and comically so at times, and is quite jealous of Ned's relationship with Zissou.
The music in the movie was very good, except for the black dude and his acoustic guitar versions of Bowie songs sung in Portuguese. I would not be surprised if I was in the minority here, but these I found annoying, and a drag.
In the middle of the movie, I noticed two people get up out of their seats, and in a very covert manner, make a sneaky dash across the aisle and sit down again. What was the meaning of this? I had to understand it. Craning my neck, and moving my head from side to side looking at them in their new position, I tried hard to figure it out. They moved from one side to the other. I could not see how they had improved their position. Was right preferable to left? Why then did they not sit to the right from the beginning? There had to be a reason behind it, there had to be. Did they simply do it to make me wonder about it, to make me miss some of the movie? Well, they succeeded, on both counts, and I am still wondering about it. I remain confounded. A mystery!

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