Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Life Aquatic (movie review)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a surprisingly whimsical but also melancholy film, which is trademark Bill Murry, who also stars in Lost in Translation and Ground Hog Day (and many others, but those are the ones I most think of here). I fell in love with many of the characters, including Bill's. And I was reminded, by the film's tribute to Cousteau, just who the real pioneers of Reality TV really are.

The film plays with being fake, by being very deliberately fake, not just in the aquatic segments, but in the slice shot of the ship, for example, where the father and son fight over who gets the girl (worth fighting for BTW). By such devices, the storytellers invoke a frame within a frame, as was Shakespeare's wont. This device is about prompting self awareness.

This film is also prototypically geek channel, in that the quest, though driven by spirited emotion (including revenge in some degree), is rather apolitical. The dialog is blandly pointed -- you don't need to be a diplomat to sail with this crew, just honestly yourself. The challenges, beyond the soap operatic, are mainly technical. Operating a ship is hard. The helicopter crash drives that point home. Maintenance matters.

As we give increasing showtime bandwidth to the myriad BizMo crews, ER teams and so on, as they fan out around the globe, their loves and heartbreaks will be real enough, as will be their many joys. The ancient rivalries will be there. But at a level we didn't enjoy before, there'll be a sense that we're all on the same team: the human crew of Spaceship Earth, with nonhuman friends in tandem (dogs and such -- and let's not forget jaguar sharks).

Matt pointed out that was Bud Cort playing the bond company stooge (a kind of saint it turns out). That was good casting, given this guy, of Harold and Maude fame, is another master of whimsy and good fun.