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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Directors commentary. 9 deleted scenes. Stars on the set. Easter Egg - Bill & Adidas. Intern Video Journal. Seu Jorge performs David Bowie (10 songs). Cast and crew interviews. Monda Monda. Stills Gallery - Photos. Stills Gallery - Designs. Interview with music composer. Two additional Easter Eggs.

HAVING worked wonders with a small budget and mega-cast for The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson now gets to broaden his horizons on The Life Aquatic with similarly impressive results.

Anyone wondering whether a bigger budget may prove the undoing of one of Hollywood's most diverse young filmmakers can rest assured that Anderson has lost none of his touch for offbeat humour coupled with heartfelt poignancy.

If anything, he just gets better!

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou reunites him with several past collaborators, including Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, whose presence merely serves to heighten the feeling of welcome familiarity.

It also provides Murray with another masterly deadpan turn that sits comfortably alongside his work on Lost in Translation.

He plays the Steve Zissou of the title, a world-weary oceanographer and film-maker, whose star is very much on the wane.

When his best friend and partner is killed by a mysterious jaguar shark on their last adventure, Zissou resolves to track down and kill the beast, enlisting the help of his fellow crew members to help him enact revenge.

These include Willem Dafoe, in a rare comic outing as a fiercely loyal German first-mate, and Noah Taylor, as the ship's physicist.

But Zissou's misery is compounded by the arrival of a young man, Ned (Owen Wilson), who claims to be his son, and the presence of a feisty journalist (Cate Blanchett), who seems intent on destroying the remnants of Zissou's floundering reputation.

Angelica Huston also crops up as Zissou's estranged wife, and the real brains behind Team Zissou, as does Jeff Goldblum, who brings his trademark malevolence to the role of Zissou's nemesis.

The ensuing seach for the jaguar shark sees Team Zissou - with red bobble hats, wetsuits and speedos - encountering pirates and all manner of exotic sea life, before having to confront the inevitable personal demons that have been threatening to tear their happy existence apart.

Needless to say, The Life Aquatic isn't your average Hollywood fare. It's surreal, darkly comic and delights in its ability to surprise.

Yet for all of its quirky values, the film also possesses a big heart and the journey that unfolds is a deeply personal one for all concerned that has more than its fair share of tender moments.

Murray, especially, seems to enjoy the freedom to explore Zissou's darker, more selfish side, as well as his ability to entertain, while Wilson (who no longer serves as Anderson's co-writer) has seldom been better as Zissou's mixed-up son, whose origins are never fully explained.

It is a performance which proves there is far more to the actor than a smooth-talking stoner and his relationships with both Murray and Blanchett provide the movie with its emotional heartbeat.

In directorial terms, the underwater world that Anderson depicts shows just how creative the writer-director can be with a bigger budget, while the oddball humour that was rife throughout The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore is also here in abundance - highlights include a safety officer who is regularly to be found singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese, as well as any scene involving Dafoe's first-mate.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, to find that The Life Aquatic is certainly worth taking the plunge with for anyone who likes their filmmaking a little bit different. It is a memorable experience.

 

 

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