Saturday, May 02, 2009

458 - Play It Again #7 - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Tony Girard doesn't forget anything. At least not that I can tell; his mind archives facts and details about as well as any computer I've seen, only the machine didn't have three gin and tonics first. Few people I know can recall a years-old conversation so accurately, or recall micro moments from a film just watched and frame them in the greater context so aptly. The smallest child from a family of quite tall individuals, Tony still hovers well above the average person, a trait he uses to great effect during his recreational hours when he smashes people's heads in with foam swords (think the group in "Role Models" if more of the senior players brutalized the younger participants with their fists). The Cedar Valley's leading War Machine player and a top-notch psychology student at the University of Northern Iowa, he's also good with a pistol and loves short women.

Tony's selection is "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," Wes Anderson's 2004 comedy about an offbeat oceanographer's quest to avenge a fallen friend.

With most Wes Anderson films (mainly the good ones), the main character is not at his best. They have gone through the high points and are now desperately struggling with what comes next. The case of Steve Zissou from "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is no different. Steve (Bill Murray) maintains the same pomp and swagger that he always had, even though he is well past his prime. Things that would have been dashing and courageous when he was twenty-five years younger now come off as eccentric and creepy.

In the film, he unabashedly breaks into his nemesis' sea lab and orders his men to steal piles of equipment. It would normally come off as an evil act, but Steve's casual attitude makes the scene what it is. The film is an easy one to watch over and over because of the subtle interactions between characters as well as their impeccable timing. The more times you see the tour of the Belefonte, or Pele playing David Bowie songs in Portuguese, the funnier it gets. There is a comforting feeling when I watch the movie, knowing that Team Zissou can pull together and accomplish great things against enormous odds and still come out relatively okay. This rag-tag pack of strays can take a severe beating, but keep on going, no matter what. Their unsinkable mentality kind of rubs off as you quote lines like, "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go on an overnight drunk, and in 10 days I'm going to set out to find the shark that ate my friend and destroy it. Anyone who wants to tag along is more than welcome."

After watching this film enough times, each tidbit uttered by a character becomes paramount to some part of the story or development of a character. The lines become funnier after you become acutely aware of how it fits in with the rest of the story. Steve tells Bill Ubell (Bud Cort as the bond company stooge) to cover his own ass when they break into the sea lab, and then personally steals Hennessey’s (Jeff Goldblum) espresso machine. Later on in the movie, Hennessey is standing next to Bill and inquires about the espresso machine. To this, Bill simply replies, "Well, uh, we...stole it." The anticipation of these scenes after repeated viewings greatly enhances their impact.

The soundtrack sets a lot of the mood with light and carefree tunes and the occasional Portuguese rendition of a Bowie song. This is only changed for tense or dynamic moments like the Ping Island Rescue, or when Steve single-handedly fights off a boat-load of pirates. Multiple viewings makes you able to identify what part of the movie it is simply by listing to the music track.

Another part that gets better with age is the amount of obviously fake plant and animal life that is abundant in the film. The crayon pony-fish all the way to the jaguar shark itself are strange and almost out of place when you first watch it, but grow with the movie.

Overall, if this film is only watched once, the amount of depth, feeling, and character in the movie is lost on the watcher. The more times it is viewed, the more it unfolds to the viewer as the epic tale of adventure and redemption that it truly is. Sail on, Team Zissou, you kings of the open sea. - Tony Girard

1 comment:

Blake Badker said...

this movie is my life. if i was any good. this is also my favorite movie of all time. hope you're prepared to dance tony... with swords! lowell RPG on.