27 September 2010

DVD: "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" - Special Edition Two-Disc Set

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Special Edition Two-Disc Set
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Bud Cort
Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach
Directed by Wes Anderson
MPAA Rating: R (For Language, Some Drug Use, Violence and Partial Nudity)
Release Date: 10 May 2005
Cinescopes Personality Types: Loyal Warrior, Chosen Adventurer
List Price: $32.99
The Criterion Collection #300
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The Film
This was my second-ever viewing of the film; I'd forgotten much of the second half over the last few years.  Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a marine documentary maker, who sets out to avenge the death of his longtime companion by hunting down the shark who ate him--despite its rarity as a species.  Steve's marriage is on the rocks, and the appearance of Ned (Owen Wilson), who claims to be his son, only complicates matters.


This time, I was reminded of The Wrath of Khan with regards to the Steve's mid-life crisis and his relationship with Ned, as well as having the lurking nemesis out there. It resonated with me a lot more this time; perhaps because I've been pretty down of late myself, wondering if perhaps my chances at accomplishment aren't dwindling--if not outright over.

Bill Murray's nuanced performance keeps it from ever tipping into outright comedy, while humanizing the drama of the story. I couldn't help but wonder what the film might have been like had he and Jeff Goldblum been cast in each other's role.



The Commentary Track with Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach
The normal track is kind of dull with reminisces about weather problems on a location shoot, or how fortunate they were to get this actor or that kind of thing. Not here. You'd think the story would get the lion's share, then--especially since these two guys co-wrote it. No, not really. They even admit that they themselves don't know what the shark is actually a metaphor for; they're contented that it can be a metaphor at all.

No, this is two hours of Noah Baumbach goading Wes Anderson into talking about what an 
artiste he is. It becomes self-aggrandizing and pretentious, which leads to the only really enjoyable portion at all: the end credits, when they apologize for coming off that way and remark that if they'd just been up front and said, "We made this stuff up because we thought it would be fun" they'd have nothing to talk about for two hours. I can appreciate that, but it seems like they failed to find an engaging alternative.





Disc Two: The Supplements
In one of the most embarrassing interviews I've ever seen--and surprisingly, it's included on this release--director and co-writer Wes Anderson flounders when asked for what, exactly, is his film a metaphor? He contents himself that his film is a metaphor at all; that it lacks an intended correlation appears to have escaped his attention at all until the publicity tour. The "Mondo Monda" interview segment paints Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach as clueless guys in way over their heads in the world of storytelling.

The trailer suggests a quirky ensemble comedy, and as others have remarked, 
Life Aquatic functions much more convincingly as a drama. I don't know how much of this marketing campaign stemmed from the public perception of Bill Murray as a funny man, or any unease at suggesting to take the film seriously in the first place or what, but it's incongruous with the actual film.

I liked the novelty of the inclusion of Seu Jorge's 10 performances of David Bowie songs in Portuguese, but I found the solo acoustic aesthetics hypnotic (read: they began to put me to sleep after 10 minutes).

I found Mark Mothersbaugh's segment interesting, but I wasn't bowled over by it. It was less thorough, I thought, than a comparable segment with Hans Zimmer on 
The Dark Knight Two-Disc Special Edition and Blu-ray Disc releases. Still, it wasn't a bad glimpse into the score of the film, and I appreciated his honest declaration that composers hate the inclusion of recorded songs in a film for hogging all the key moments in the movie, and I was amused/distracted by just how fat his dog was.

The "This Is an Adventure" documentary is a solid making-of feature, but I found the "Intern Video Journal" to be entertaining and more approachable than the stuffy, reverent nature of most DVD supplements.

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