Thursday, June 30, 2005

"This is the symphony that Schubert never fini...."

Dr. Write got me thinking of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou again. Like Dr. Write and SleepyE, I found the movie, to be blunt, not good. Like a lot of things I read, hear, or see, being good or bad hasn't stopped my wondering about and analyzing certain things in it. This, therefore, makes me reconsider my value judgment of it. "Not good" does not mean "uninteresting." Ultimately it means that I would prefer not to watch it as entertainment, but it doesn't mean I'm not going to watch it for study or for edification. For example, if I were to throw a Wes Anderson fest or teach a Wes Anderson class, I would not exclude this film, and would, perhaps make use of it to explore tropes that exist in his other films. With that bit of wind-baggery out of the way, here is my ill-formed response to Dr. Write's post on Life Aquatic:
I am not really sure what I thought of Life Aquatic. The obscure construction of fatherhood in it didn't make any sense to me, although I can see that the Bill Murray character seemed to be desiring and detesting the role. In many ways he seemed to be a watered-down Royal Tennenbaum. I guess I just don't get the point. What is it about? Abandonment? Having no father? Seeking adventure? A ten-year old boy's fantasy life come true? (Replete with people carrying guns and all). I'm going to riff on that idea for a while, I think. The whole movie was a kid's fantasy; maybe that is why it is so incoherent.

One question, however, why was it made patently obvious that SZ could not be Owen Wilson's character's father? (Remember the conversation between the two women: "He shoots blanks"--a result of too many years of diving.) Is Anderson just hitting on that need to be a part of something theme again? Man, I feel incoherent just thinking about the movie.

The puzzling question struck a chord in the movie. There are all these relationships gone sideways in the film: the pregnant Jane getting involved with Ned; Zissou himself not really being the father of Ned; the marriage of Zissou and Eleanor and her other marriage with the half-gay Alistair; Klaus's son-like relationship to Zissou and his probable biological fatherhood of Ned. Even reading the statement of these relationships is difficult. Suffice it to say that somehow these people are connected and need each other and at the same time they are their own worst enemies. Ultimately they all end up hurting each other in one way or another (and Ned even ends up dead), yet at the same time they all end up needing each other.

I'm not really making much sense on this issue, I think, because the movie itself doesn't make sense of it. In fact, in many ways it is utter non-sense. I mean what kind of oceanographer knows pretty much nothing about marine biology? Zissou constantly coins names for critters (which Eleanor or Jane correct), and does things that seem to have no purpose (like requiring everyone to carry a gun.) This is the nature of the boyhood fantasy I spoke of in the response at Dr. Writes--it makes no sense and is childlike in its non-sense.

At the same time, however, one can say all the non-sense does make a certain amount of sense. Take the guns, for example. Even though it seems arbitrary and boyish to require everyone to carry a gun, that very gun is what rescues them in the long run. I guess what I am saying is like the relationships in the movie, the logic in this movie is also sideways: hey you need to carry a gun because you never know when you will be fighting pirates! That's the same logic I used when I was 9 and carried a big rock in my pocket because you never knew. You just never knew. I don't know what I never knew, but I was sure-as-hell prepared to face whatever it was with my rock if it ever came about.

My rock, however, never came in useful. That is a key difference and is the fantasy feature of this movie. The fantasy are fulfilled here, the wonder is excited (the conclusion of spotting the leopard shark shows that), but the lives in this movie are never fulfilled. They are empty lives, at best, and fraught with loss.

The movie like the lives portrayed in it are unfinished. Because of their nature to just make shit up as they go along the characters here never really find what they are looking for.

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