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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Time Out says
The most peculiar entry, or perhaps just the laziest, in David Thomson’s ‘New Biographical Dictionary of Film’ is for Wes Anderson, and reads in full: ‘Watch this space. What does that mean? That he might be something one day.’ Anderson partisans may safely argue that the 35-year-old is quite something already: an endearingly fussy craftsman of droll, melancholy comedies that dissect the vicissitudes of friendship and family ties, unfolding within hermetic Cornell-box worlds of vintage pop and meticulously nostalgic art design. Alas, Anderson’s fourth feature (the product of a hard winter’s shoot in Italy) may do little to correct Thomson’s irresolution. Despite its typically painstaking attentions to elaborate set dressings and assignations of quirk, ‘The Life Aquatic’ meanders and stalls in its journeys with ocean explorer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a down-at-heel Cousteau-manqué pursuing a filmed revenge mission against the jaguar shark who devoured his best friend.
Suffused with lush yet faded primary colours like a 30-year-old Kodak snap and spiced with Henry Selick’s stop-motion animations and a starry (if often idle) cast of supporting players, ‘The Life Aquatic’ is a beautifully appointed but airless dollhouse-by-the-sea, populated by wistful figurines in their matching little red caps and Team Zissou Adidas, and scored to Seu Jorge’s deckside acoustic renditions of Bowie songs in Portuguese. The movie pokes along in a manner at once listless and affable, like a series of semi-improvised outtakes that didn’t quite gel. And yet the director magically conjures emotional dividends in the film’s invigorating last moments, which wordlessly celebrate an underrated and truly Andersonian virtue: solidarity.