Friday, August 6, 2010

In Haste: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I'm reminded of the most ingenious scene from (500) Days of Summer in which we are given a split screen of expectation vs. reality.  It's a splendid device to use.  Oh how often I've lived such forms as that.  How many times have I ran through a contrived scenario in my mind, only to experience a great dissonance in how it plays out?  Many, many times.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a world built entirely on the back of expectation.  This is made brilliantly clear by the stylized animals Zissou and friends encounter, which appear more cartoonish than they do realistic.  Even the dreaded Jaguar Shark, upon his eventual revealing, displays a goofy frame and color scheme.

Granted, bad things happen in the film.  A bond stooge is kidnapped.  An intern is shot.  The Reporter doesn't have a Father for her baby.  Ned's mother killed herself after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Yes, this is all true.  But it's all known.

What I love about the world Wes Anderson created, is that everyone is articulate as they personally can be.  Everyone knows who everyone else is.  At one point Steve states something like, "Please don't make fun of me, I only wanted to flirt with you."  Who says that?!

Their world is one where everyone is clear with their intentions; there is no mystery in their design.  And yet, despite the lack of discretion and mysteriousness, the characters all remain firmly likable and interesting.  Klaus, Steve's German sidekick never once has a line in the film that doesn't make me smile.

Much of this world revolves around human interface.  And, for guys like me, much of that interface relies on strong intuition and the assumption of motive.  Wouldn't this earth be ever so pleasant if everyone knew where they stood with everyone else?  I think so.

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