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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou


Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Being his fourth feature film, and the first not to be co-written with Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson had a lot to live up to with The Life Aquatic. His previous film, The Royal Tenenbaums (which has one of the greatest assemblies of actors in recent years), was a masterpiece of storytelling, combining comedy, poignancy and tragedy so effectively, and with a completely unique style. The Life Aquatic is clearly an Anderson film: the separate ‘chapters’, the constant use of subtitles, the colourful wacky world full of bizarre characters played by another amazing cast of brilliant actors.

As well as Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Angelica Houston, the cast boasts such talent as Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe and Cate Blanchett, all of whom put in spectacular performances as their respective quirky characters. The film sees deep sea oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) bring together his crew (including long lost son Owen Wilson) to set out and seek revenge on a mythical shark like creature that killed his partner. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go to plan, and the plot unfolds with typically Anderson-style craziness. The film has a real ‘retro’ feel to it, with the new and the old mixing together, sometimes not so harmoniously and Anderson once again shows his technical proficiency with a film filled with unexpected camera shots, genre homages and unorthodox exposition; often various background information is filled in with a quick series of shots combined with subtitles.

Even with its quirky plot, this film is a great example of story-telling at its best; the plot isn’t particularly complex, but the way in which it is told more than makes up for what the film lacks in substance. Whilst perhaps not quite living up to its predecessor, The Life Aquatic is hilarious, tragic and unbelievable in equal measure, but mainly this film is just fun to watch. As with any Anderson film, it’s important to take the whole film with a pinch of salt: the plot is quirky and far-fetched, but that is just part of the magic world that Anderson creates. Just sit back and enjoy

Charles Tomlinson

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Summer Term (35mm)