Redirecting from this thread on Bottle Rocket
. I've been busy at work this week, or I would've replied sooner, and since you didn't enjoy the film, I don't see any reason why you'd spend much time defending your opinion, but I will give you a long drawn out reply concerning my own thoughts.
domino harvey wrote:There's never a moment in the Life Aquatic when the visual overload of set design, costuming, and other affectations on the screen don't try to overwhelm any attempt at a narrative. And this is not in itself a bad thing. Had Anderson embraced his obvious desire to create a film which would be a complete treat for the eyes and abandoned the half-cocked, astonishingly sophomoric and unconvincing storyline, the Life Aquatic might have succeeded as an interesting experiment. But the Life Aquatic keeps insisting that its story matters, when it is so far removed from anything resembling characterization (which, let me be clear, is not a bad thing in itself but it is a bad thing when the film is dependent on a story/characters, which is how the Life Aquatic is set-up. Had Anderson just made a two-hour music video, or an experimental/existentialist film, or just a non-narrative journey, this point wouldn't be a detriment to the film at all) that the nauseatingly coy flippancy becomes a bigger distraction than the visuals, and the film then fails on both levels.
But here I see I've resorted to calling it a film after all, so I guess I still lose this one. I will concede that in the film's favor, it had a fantastic trailer that gave the impression that the whole thing was going to work.
But I actually found the visuals to be more subdued in this film than in Royal Tenenbaums, which seemed to take more risks with color (i.e. the "Needle in the Hay" bathroom scene, design of the house.) Granted, the set design (boat) and costuming (including merchandised skullcaps) could be seen as obnoxious, but the former, at least during the Ladies Man bit, worked to introduce the boat, which Anderson considered a character of the film. The latter was part of the original inspiration for the film, related to the Jacques Cousteau angle. The costumes do bely a "coy flippancy", but since I can be flippantly coy myself, I wasn't bothered by it. As for the stop motion creatures, you be onto something, but I don't think real animals would have been "fun" enough for Anderson, just like in Rushmore (the schools, and locations) and Royal Tenenbaums (history, the city) he prefers to draw upon reality as filtered through his imagination, rather than attempt to recreate something real. I'm definitely willing to give that this could have hurt the film for some, however much I enjoyed it.
I'm not sure I understand how "Life Aquatic keeps insisting that its story matters, when it is so far removed from anything resembling characterization." It seems that even the film's naysayers enjoyed a character or two (as chock full as it is, it's probably hard not to), and it seems that in all of Anderson's films characterization happens between the lines. Dafoe's Klaus has only a handful of lines, and by the end I personally felt he was one of the most fleshed out. To compare, after the film was over, I was sad that, Noah Taylor, one of my favorite actors, was saddled with one of the few uninteresting roles. So if his role was uninteresting, I suppose that makes many of the others interesting (to me at least, and subjective opinion is surely from where our differences stem.)
I wouldn't call any of Anderson's storylines "convincing", either. They seem to happen on another world, and often, part of what makes his work so enjoyable is seeing people do what part of you knows no one really does. I suppose this idea of unreal idiosyncracy is extremely attractive to me, and I find it makes his films unique and entertaining. His films are meant to be fun, and he's gone on record saying he doesn't mind them being listed under the "Comedy" section.
After I read this, "a two-hour music video, or an experimental/existentialist film, or just a non-narrative journey", I was reminded of how the film does veer off into a handful of bizarre "Needle in the Hay"/Tenenbaums type moments. The pirate scene and Ned's death are odd and both catapult the film into "tragic adventure" territory, and reminds me of the great moment during Robert Enrico's Les Aventuriers where Laetitia is shot, and the following scene where her body is dumped off the coast of the Congo. What had been a fun, slightly existentialist, romp and search for treasure, turned horribly wrong. At that halfway point it begins to turn down, and ends with even more death. While the analogy isn't entirely there, what I'm trying to say is maybe the moments that don't "fit", are what really maps out the Life Aquatic.
I watched it again recently, and I am pretty sure that he took the wrong step with the Tiger Shark scene. It should have been Murray (and maybe Goldblum) alone at the bottom of the ocean. The music is wrong, and the "emotion" is overplayed, mostly by the lack of focus on Zissou. Instead you're paying attention to what everyone else is doing in submersible. It doesn't do what it should do, but I also don't believe it damages the film that much, and its surrounded by scenes that I'm very fond of.