The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Movie: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

This is my favourite movie – I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier in the category of “ocean movies”! It has an incredible cast – Bill Murry, Angelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum. The humour is not laugh out loud funny, but – in true Bill Murray style – the kind that makes you chuckle or smile to yourself.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Steve Zissou is an underwater researcher like Jacques Cousteau (even down to the Speedos and little red caps). The film traces his attempt to track down the jaguar shark that ate his partner, and his reunion with his illegitimate son. The sea life is rendered using computer graphics or giant puppets – most of the creatures shown are fictional, but beautiful nonetheless. My favourite part of the movie was the Belafonte, Steve’s ship. The actual ship used in the filming was a former South African minesweeper. but a huge cross-sectional model was also constructed.

I also loved the soundtrack – very quirky, with some tracks specially designed by Mark Mothersbaugh to sound like they were produced on a Casio electric keyboard.

There are many things about this movie that make me laugh when I think about it.

  • Steve getting covered in leeches while wearing his ridiculous shiny blue wetsuit
  • Willem Dafoe’s character’s gift for choosing TOTALLY random Bible readings for funerals
  • Alistair Hennessy’s (Jeff Goldblum) very gay crew, with impeccable fashion sense, when contrasted with Steve Zissou’s ragtag bunch
  • The female crewmember on the Belafonte who is gratuitously topless most of the time
  • The Adidas tracksuits and branded sneakers
  • The number of people squeezed into the submersible at the end, when they’ve found the jaguar shark (far more than it’s rated for)

Aside from the comic element, the film is very moving indeed. The final scene when the crew walks down the jetty over the credits is beautiful, as is the exit from the awards dinner with Steve Zissou carrying a little boy on his shoulders. The music at that point was perfect.

The DVD is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here. If you liked the soundtrack, including some David Bowie performed in Brazilian Portuguese on an acoustic guitar, you can get it here or here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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