Thursday, July 14, 2005

the ocean teems with life

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of the most engaging films I've seen this year. Critics and viewers who saw it all had opinions, divided along the usual love/hate lines. I'm firmly on the "love it" side.

Written (with Noah Baumbach) and directed by Wes Anderson (the same guy responsible for The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore), this film pays a soft kind of homage to the documentaries made popular by Jacques Cousteau. The ensemble cast gives a great performance (Bill Murray - in his low-key non-slapstick manner, like Lost in Translation; Owen Wilson; Willem DaFoe, Cate Blanchette and Anjelica Houston) - plus, the music (David Bowie by way of the Portugeuese) is excellent - but it is the writing and directing sensibilities that make the film work.

It is quirky without going overboard, and is chockfull of small moments that tickle that part of me that appreciates observations on the human condition. The comedic elements are present without being overwhelming - in fact, it is that very gentle tongue-in-cheek aspect that wisely prevents the film from taking itself too seriously. But what I liked most about this film is the way it engaged my mind, since - shockingly - it did not adhere to the Hollywood formulas despite originating from a major house.

It got me thinking about all those weekend afternoons when I'd voyage with Cousteau in the Nautilus (right?) and see how the ocean teemed with vibrant life, another memory from my childhood that made me feel a little bit sentimental. How different things were then. My world was composed of my books, the television, my comics, my bicycle and my friends, and I never imagined that one day I'd have to worry about paying rent and supporting a family. But still, the memory of those fantastic underwater explorations are like unexpected rain, delightful and invigorating.


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