In Aquatic life broadcast this evening on Arte, Bill Murray embarks a strange crew of red caps on an incredible jaguar shark hunt. This zany and poetic odyssey is a marvel.
Famous oceanographer and documentary filmmaker in the midst of an existential crisis, Steve Zissou wants at all costs to prove that the jaguar shark, which he considers responsible for the death of a friend, does indeed exist. He embarks an improvised crew on an incredible expedition: Ned Plimpton, his alleged abandoned son years earlier, Jane, a pregnant journalist dispatched by Oceanographic Explorer magazine, and Eleanor, his extravagant wife. They will face headwinds, a mutiny, an attack by Filipino hostage-takers, and the famous more or less imaginary jaguar shark.
Old fashioned DIY sea monsters
The Sea Monster that haunts Steve Zissou’s dreams is gigantic: it measures 25 m in the film. In reality, it was a large 68 kg puppet, created to be animated by stop-motion. The film is a real toy box and which carries high an old-fashioned craftsmanship, without digital effects: the sea monsters were tinkered by Henry Selick, head of animation of The strange Christmas of Mr. Jack. For his fourth feature film, Wes Anderson (Budapest Hotel) combines retro style, pastel colors and colorful characters in an adventure that is both wacky and poetic. When he was still a student, the filmmaker had written a short story that already featured Steve Zissou, his boat, the Belafonte, and his wife, who was in fact the brains of his expedition. Over the years he has fleshed out his characters before writing the screenplay for Aquatic Life with his longtime friend, the screenwriter and director Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story on Netflix).
Bill Murray in Azimute Cousteau
Sorry to prefer Bill Murray to Lambert Wilson under the red bonnet of Commander Cousteau. Bill Murray, the coolest actor of his generation whose escapades are legendary invests the film with the quirky humor and melancholy that inhabit his most beautiful characters (Lost in translation, One endless day…) In the very stylized fable of Wes Anderson, he plays the old sea bass, renamed Steve Zissou, worried about the declining interest aroused by his seabed reports who embarks on his final oceanographic mission to leave his name to posterity . As Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe and Anjelica Huston, we just want to join the Zissou team and dive into the funny and absurd eddies of this wild quest. Irresistibly funny and terribly melancholy in turn, this little marvel of invention and cinema is a beautiful tribute to Captain Cousteau, to which the film is dedicated. Moreover, the red caps worn by the characters refer to the distinctive sign that the spectators recognized from the report programs devoted to the oceanographic explorations of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, including The world of silence won the Palme d’Or in 1956.
An electrifying soundtrack
In this very noisy world of silence, we find a musician, played by Seu Jorge (The city of God). It is he who sings in situ part of the brilliant soundtrack of the film, the excellent cover of Life on Mars of David Bowie in Brazilian version. The result is unforgettable! Wes Anderson also says he wrote the film with precisely in mind the pieces he wanted to use for such and such scene. He was the one who insisted that Seu Jorge play and record all the songs on the boat.