Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Opinions: Wes Anderson/The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'...because I live dangerously...

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is an American comedy-drama film directed, written, and co-produced by Wes Anderson. It is Anderson's fourth feature length film, released in the U.S. on December 25, 2004. It was written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach and was filmed in and around Naples, Ponza and the Italian Riviera.
The offbeat comedy stars Bill Murray as Steve Zissou, an eccentric oceanographer who sets out to exact revenge on the "Jaguar shark" that ate his partner Esteban. Zissou is both a parody of and homage to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, to whom the film is dedicated.
Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston and Owen Wilson also are featured in the film.
It was released May 10, 2005 on DVD as part of The Criterion Collection. The film has built a small cult following.


While the Oceanographer and documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) was working on his latest documentary at sea, his best friend Esteban du Plantier (Seymour Cassel) was eaten by a creature Zissou describes as a "Jaguar shark." For his next project, Zissou is determined to document the shark's destruction.
Zissou's crew aboard his research vessel Belafonte includes Pelé dos Santos (Seu Jorge), a safety expert and Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, and Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe), a lovable German second-in-command who viewed Zissou and Esteban as father figures.
Minor crew members of "Team Zissou" include Vikram Ray (Waris Ahluwalia), a Sikh cameraman, described in Zissou's featured film documentary as a man "born on the Ganges"; Bobby Ogata (Niels Koizumi), a frogman who is usually seen eating; Vladimir Wolodarsky (Noah Taylor), crew experimentator and original score composer; Renzo Pietro (Pawel Wdowczak), screen editor; and Anne-Marie Sakowitz (Robyn Cohen), script girl, who is often topless. Zissou's crew also include a pack of unpaid college interns from the (fictional) University of North Alaska.
Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) is a polite and childlike Southern gentleman whose mother has recently died. He believes that Zissou is his father. After they meet at a film premiere, Ned takes a break from his job as an airline pilot in Kentucky to join the Zissou crew. As no one else will finance the latest documentary, Ned agrees to support the new film with his inheritance.
A reporter, Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), comes to chronicle the voyage. She is also pregnant with her married boss's child. A rivalry develops between Ned and Zissou, both infatuated with Jane. Klaus also is envious of the attention Zissou pays to Ned.
On their mission to find the Jaguar Shark, the Belafonte crew has to deal with a murderous attack by pirates. Sakowitz, along with all but one of the interns, jumps ship after the pirate raid. The interns who leave get only "incomplete" grades for this "course."
The Belafonte crew launches its own sneak attack on the pirates to retrieve their money and rescue a "bond company stooge" (Bud Cort) who had been hired by Zissou's producer Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon). They also discover and rescue Zissou's nemesis, Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum). Hennessey is the opposite of Zissou—successful, suave, rich—and was once married to Zissou's wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston).
While searching for the Jaguar Shark, the ship's helicopter crashes, injuring Zissou and fatally injuring Ned. A puzzled Eleanor reveals to Jane that Zissou is actually sterile and therefore Ned could not have been his son.
Zissou finally tracks down the shark but decides not to kill it, both because of its beauty and not having any dynamite. Viewing the shark finally validates an existence that Zissou himself had feared might have become meaningless. Eleanor is moved by this and falls in love with Zissou all over again.
The finished documentary "film-within-a-film" is a hit; and Zissou wins an award, regaining respect worldwide, though his losses haunt him even as he gains what once seemed lost.
The newest member of the team shown at the end of the film is Klaus's nephew, Werner, a young Zissou fan who seems to represent another surrogate son.

Literary inspiration

Though the characters were inspired by such American novels as The Great Gatsby and The Magnificent Ambersons, the plot has been compared to Moby-Dick.
Writing about the metaphorical aspects of the film's setting — somewhere in the Mediterranean — film critic Elena Past says that the underwater scenes, because they are central to the storyline, make The Life Aquatic similar in some ways to Respiro. Both films set out a "Mediterranean state of being" where "having left the security of land, the characters in both films are suddenly confronted with the precarious nature of human existence, as the films that depict them tackle the challenges of representing the submarine world."


  • Bill Murray as Steve Zissou
  • Owen Wilson as Edward "Ned" Plimpton/Kingsley Zissou
  • Cate Blanchett as Jane Winslett-Richardson
  • Anjelica Huston as Eleanor Zissou
  • Willem Dafoe as Klaus Daimler
  • Jeff Goldblum as Alistair Hennessey
  • Michael Gambon as Oseary Drakoulias
  • Noah Taylor as Vladimir Wolodarsky
  • Bud Cort as Bill Ubell, "Bond Company Stooge"
  • Seu Jorge as Pelé dos Santos
  • Robyn Cohen as Anne-Marie Sakowitz
  • Waris Ahluwalia as Vikram Ray
  • Matthew Gray Gubler as Nico, Intern #1
  • Antonio Monda as Himself
  • Isabella Blow as Antonia Cook


Critical reception was mixed, with a composite 53% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Bill Murray's performance was praised, and some critics predicted that he would be nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award.
Anthony Lane, a film reviewer for The New Yorker, agreed with the usual criticism of Anderson's deadpan style: that the underreaction of Anderson's characters used to be "hip" but has now become "frozen into a mannerism." He said that "some stretches of action" in the film are being "lightly held within quotation marks," with an "unmistakable air of playacting" in even the most violent scenes. He also criticized the film's deliberately "weird" set ups, which leave the viewer with "the impression of having nearly drowned in some secret and melancholy game."

Box office

The film was a box office flop with a total of $24,020,403 after twelve weeks in release, barely half its production budget. It took in a further $10,788,000 internationally, bringing the total gross to $34,808,403.


The soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou contains a style typical of other Wes Anderson films. Mark Mothersbaugh, a member of Devo, composed the score for the soundtrack as well as for many of Anderson's other films. The film also features many rock songs from the 1960s-1980s, and several instrumental pieces composed by Sven Libaek for the underwater documentary television series Inner Space. Additionally, the film and soundtrack feature Seu Jorge performing David Bowie songs in Portuguese on the acoustic guitar. Jorge, who also plays the character of Pelé dos Santos, performs some of these cover songs live, in character during the film.

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