The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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"Steve Zissou" redirects here. For the attorney, see Steve Zissou (jurist).
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Lifeaquaticposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by David Moritz
Production
company
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 20, 2004 (2004-11-20) (Los Angeles)
  • December 25, 2004 (2004-12-25) (United States)
Running time 118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $34,808,403[1]

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a 2004 American comedy-drama film directed, co-written, and co-produced by Wes Anderson.[2][3] It is Anderson's fourth feature length film, released in the U.S. on Christmas 2004. It was written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach and was filmed in and around Naples, Ponza, and the Italian Riviera.

The film stars Bill Murray as the eponymous 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 French diving pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910–1997), to whom the film is dedicated. Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Seu Jorge, and Bud Cort are also featured in the film.

Plot[edit]

While oceanographer and documentarian Steve Zissou is working on his latest documentary at sea, his best friend Esteban du Plantier is eaten by a creature Zissou describes as a "Jaguar shark." For his next project, Zissou is determined to document the shark's destruction.

The crew aboard Zissou's research vessel Belafonte includes Pelé dos Santos, a safety expert and Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, and Klaus Daimler, the German second-in-command who viewed Zissou and Esteban as father figures. Minor crew members include Vikram Ray, a cameraman, described in Zissou's film documentary as a man "born on the Ganges"; Bobby Ogata, a frogman who is usually seen eating; Vladimir Wolodarsky, original score composer; Renzo Pietro, screen editor; and Anne-Marie Sakowitz, script girl, who is often topless. "Team Zissou" also includes a pack of unpaid college interns from the fictional University of North Alaska.

Ned Plimpton is a polite 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 Zissou's 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, 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 an attack by pirates. Sakowitz, along with all but one of the interns, jumps ship after the raid. The interns who leave receive "incomplete" grades for the course. The Belafonte crew launches a sneak attack on the pirates to retrieve their money and rescue a "bond company stooge", Bill Ubell, who had been hired by Zissou's producer Oseary Drakoulias. They also discover and rescue Zissou's nemesis, Alistair Hennessey, who is successful, suave, and rich, and was once married to Zissou's wife Eleanor. The crew is pursued by the pirates, escaping to the Belafonte on a fishing boat. They are forced to leave behind the pirates' dog "Cody" that Steve befriended after the pirates left it behind on the Belafonte earlier.

While searching for the shark, the ship's helicopter crashes, injuring Zissou and fatally injuring Ned. Ned later dies and is given a military funeral. 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. At the premiere of the finished documentary, Zissou receives a grand ovation.

The crew was then shown returning to the ship.

In the credits, Pelé sang as the credits rolled and then left afterwards.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Literary inspiration[edit]

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.[4]

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."[5]

Music [edit]

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.[6]

The Life Aquatic is Anderson's first film to not feature a Rolling Stones song.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film was a box office disappointment with a total of $24,020,403 after twelve weeks in release, less than half its production budget. It took in a further $10,788,000 internationally, bringing the total gross to $34,808,403.[1]

Critical response [edit]

Critical reception was mixed, with a 'rotten' 56% score on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus states: "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is getting soaked by many critics, who call it smug, ironic and artificial. Still, others have praised the movie's sheer uniqueness, eccentricity and whimsy."[7] The film has a 62/100 weighted average score on Metacritic, which translates to "Generally favorable reviews".[8] 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 conventional 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."[9]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Art Directors Guild Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary Film Mark Friedberg, Stefano Maria Ortolani, Eugenio Ulissi, Marco Trentini, Simona Migliotti, Giacomo Calò Carducci, Saverio Sammali, Nazzareno Piana, Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Giulia Chiara Crugnola Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Wes Anderson Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Cast Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Bud Cort, Anjelica Huston, Michael Gambon, Bill Murray, Noah Taylor Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Acting Ensemble Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Bud Cort, Anjelica Huston, Michael Gambon, Bill Murray, Noah Taylor Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards Actor of the Year Cate Blanchett Won
Costume Designers Guild Awards Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Costume Design for a Contemporary Film Milena Canonero Won
Golden Trailer Awards Best Comedy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett Won
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Best Sound Editing in a Feature Richard Henderson Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Best Music - Feature The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Actor - Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy Bill Murray Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Original Screenplay Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach Nominated

Home media[edit]

Two home video formats of the film were released on DVD in 2005: a 1-disc version and a 2-disc version, both as part of the Criterion Collection. This is Anderson's third film to be released in the collection, after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.[10] The Criterion Blu-ray was released on 27 May 2014.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. 
  2. ^ A. O. Scott (2004-12-10). "A Seagoing Showcase of Human Collectibles". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Michael Wilmington (2004-12-22). "'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'". The Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ Govender, Dyalan. "Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Melville's Moby Dick: A Comparative Study". Literature/Film Quarterly 36 (1): 61–67. 
  5. ^ Past, Elena (Spring 2009). "Lives Aquatic: Mediterranean Cinema and an Ethics of Underwater Existence". Cinema Journal 48 (3): 52–65. doi:10.1353/cj.0.0104. 
  6. ^ Carle, Chris (May 4, 2005). "Review: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Original Soundtrack". IGN.com. News Corporation. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  7. ^ "Life Aquatic at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  8. ^ The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at Metacritic
  9. ^ Lane, Anthony (2005-01-17). "Go Fish: "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"". The New Yorker 80 (43). pp. 96–97. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  10. ^ "Wes Anderson - Explore - The Criterion Collection". Criterion.com. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  11. ^ "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 

External links[edit]