The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a 2004
American comedy-drama film directed, co-written, and co-produced by Wes Anderson. 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, 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
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, Peĺe sang as the credits
rolled and then left afterwards. Cast
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
Bud Cort as Bill Ubell, “Bond Company Stooge” Noah Taylor as Vladimir Wolodarsky
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
Seymour Cassell as Esteban du Plantier Production
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.” Music 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. The Life Aquatic is Anderson’s first film
to not feature a Rolling Stones song. Reception
Box office 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. Critical response
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.” The film has a 62/100 weighted average score
on Metacritic, which translates to “Generally favorable reviews”. 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.” Accolades
Home media 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. The Criterion Blu-ray was released on 27 May
2014. See also
SAS Walvisbaai, the ship used as the R/V Belafonte References External links
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the Internet Movie Database
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at AllMovie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at Box
Office Mojo The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at Rotten
Tomatoes The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at Metacritic
N.P. Thompson Wednesday,. “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The Criterion Collection, $32.99.”.  “Captain Neato” Christian Lorentzen’s review
of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in n+1

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