Saturday, August 27, 2005

Kirk Bage's Movie Review - The Life Aquatic

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By Kirk Bage

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What do a three legged dog, a Portuguese Bowie fan and Willem Dafoe with a German accent have in common? Welcome to the world of Wes Anderson - the modern day epitome of that fine line between a genius and a lunatic.

If Bill Murray in a red bobble hat and flippers doesn't immediately make you chuckle, then the weird and wonderful tale of over-the-hill oceanographer / adventurer Steve Zissou is not for you. If, however, Anderson's previous works: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums filled you with wonder and a rediscovered sense of values long lost, then, despite its wayward script you will love this. I am a big fan of Anderson's best traits - his minute attention to detail, that leave his films almost overwhelmingly produced; his impeccable taste and sense of film music (including his collaboration with composer Mark Mothersbaugh, again in top form here); his sense of juvenile fun; the range of interesting characters he creates to inhabit his off-centre worlds, and the use of some of the best actors around to bring it all to life! Murray and Defoe I've mentioned - and both are excellent, especially the latter who sends himself up in the most beautifully subtle way - but there is also Anderson ever present Owen Wilson, the amazingly diverse Cate Blanchett, the underused Noah Taylor, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston and, for good measure, a deliciously daffy cameo from Michael Gambon!

How does he do it on an arthouse budget? The answer must simply be that Hollywood's best are falling over themselves to work with him - and why not? Even though I felt this was weaker than both Rushmore and the Tenenbaums, both in story and emotional impact, there are brief scenes and snatches of dialogue that just light you up! It's one of those things that you either ‘get’ or you don't, and therefore I can completely forgive the many bad reviews it got on initial release - But trust me - on DVD this has enough energy and pure creativity per frame to keep it a cult classic for generations. A filmmaker, not at the very top of his game, but certainly one in the highest echelon of "ones to watch". 7/10

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