LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, THE: DVD
Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a legendary underwater explorer, notorious blow-hard, and known around the globe for his documentaries about life beneath the sea. But life is not going so smoothly for Zissou of late. Out of the blue (as in sky), comes a Kentucky co-pilot named Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who claims he might, or might not, be the long-lost son Steve never got to know, after an affair with Ned's mother over 30 years earlier. So Zissou sets sail in a state of uncertainty and takes Ned with him, to make his latest film. His crew is enlarged with pregnant journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), who is doing a cover story (he hopes) on Steve, his loyal German engineer Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe), but not his wife (and brains behind his accomplishments) Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston). And just over the horizon is his nemesis, Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This film is a rare original, something of lasting value - especially on DVD
- that will keep you engrossed and entertained in a dry, downbeat tone that is focused and filmic and fantastic.
Don't you love the dryness, from Bill Murray's underplaying to Anjelica Houston's minimalism. Even Owen Wilson gives us minimalism in performance. Wes Anderson's direction has created an ensemble in which Cate Blanchett's pregnant English journalist is as perfectly in sync as Willem Dafoe's sensitive and complex German engineer.
Meet them all on the set in the Starz feature, a collage of interview grabs (complete with the usual backslapping, which in this case is probably warranted) and scene clips (whicuj are not).
The audio commentary by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach is unique for at least the fact that it was recorded (in Feb. 2005) in the New York bar where the two of them write the screenplay over a period of time - but always at the same table. You can tell it's real 'cause the audio contains all the atmos of the bar. Besides, we don't imagine these guys would lie about a thing like that! Anyway, as you'd expect, it's an entertaining track, typical of a double conversation, and sometimes profound, sometimes flippant. Occasionally, the anecdotes are terrific, like the one about Zissou's ship, which the filmmakers bought in South Africa, sailed it to the Mediterranean and renovated it. But it never did run well, but it inspired crew loyalty.
It's appropriate that the commentary is recorded at the table where the screenplay was written, because of course the script is the goldmine; didn't you admire the opening set up in an Italian theatre? No, it isn't a cinema, hence the curtains. And then we're back there while under the credits we get that terrific singer and guitarist from the crew... The brilliance of the script is in its constant inventiveness; yet we are never thrown out of the story as it weaves and changes, because it remains sharply and sincerely observed. The constant dips into character darkness, the black humour of the conflicted Steve Zissou stumbling in and across relationships from his wife, his crew and his (maybe) son, all play with the same edgy desperation as our own lives. I speak for myself, but I suspect I'm not alone.
It's in these moments of recognition that we find satisfaction, as well as confrontation. The film also confronts with its jagged mood switching, but Anderson never loses his balance and his grip on our feelings.
Technically proficient, and with a David Bowie song book behind it, The Life Aquatic is the film we've been waiting Bill Murray to make after Lost In Translation, and Wes Anderson to direct since Rushmore (1998). Worth the wait.
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LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, THE: DVD (M)
CAST: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor
PRODUCER: Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
SCRIPT: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert D. Yeoman
EDITOR: David Moritz, Daniel R. Padgett
MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2005
PRESENTATION: Widescreen; DD 5.1;
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary; Starz On the Set; Deleted scenes, Easter Egg (Bill and Adiddas)