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Critics reviews
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Wes Anderson United States, 2004
Like all of Anderson’s best films, it works simultaneously on multiple levels, and derives its sneaky power from the ways in which those levels intersect. Now that a decade has gone by, and Tenenbaums’ fractured family isn’t so fresh in memory, maybe that’ll be clearer.
May 28, 2014
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Anderson is one of the most identifiable auteurs of his generation, but the sharpest point of The Life Aquatic is that singular cinematic visions can only be achieved with the help of dozens of people, and that an artist is ultimately saved from solipsism by obligation to those aides.
May 21, 2014
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Professionally adrift and despondent over his dead mate, Zissou (mid-2000s blank slate du jour Bill Murray) sets his sights on a possibly unrealizable goal and does his best to get fired up about it, but it’s clear his heart isn’t in it. That the film, too, slowly deflates isn’t a misfire—it’s just following suit. This is profoundly depressed cinema, all the more poignant for trying to hide it, which it does perhaps too well.
February 17, 2012
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Every inch of Life Aquatic is testimony to Anderson’s obsessiveness and proficiency. The artifice that irritated some viewers in Tenenbaums is foregrounded even more here. The meticulous and fantastical production design spills over with details; repeat viewings reveal witty flourishes hidden in plain sight. And it’s all of a piece: this is a coherent and fully formed world, sprung from a children’s-book sensibility…
January 01, 2012
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If The Royal Tenenbaums suggested that Anderson was an urbane New York cartoonist who happened to work in celluloid, The Life Aquatic (co-written with Noah Baumbach) reveals him as a consummate comic-book artist of the hyper-refined French school, crafting an elaborate bande dessinée in which virtually every frame is an objet d’art.
February 20, 2005
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If Wes Anderson’s Rushmore recalls J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and his The Royal Tenenbaums offers a touch of Franny and Zooey, this 2004 feature by Anderson feature suffers from the mannerist self-consciousness of Seymour: An Introduction. Each successive movie seems further removed from real human behavior, though the attitudes here—mainly invested in Bill Murray as the title character, an over-the-hill filmmaker-oceanographer—seem as authentic as ever…
December 22, 2004
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Pic falls between the put-on and the real — whether it’s the characters’ various relationships, the film-within-the-film (which looks too suspiciously directed with Anderson’s distinctive eye), or the scientific parts. Latter comes closest to a full cartoon, care of the handmade work of animator Henry Selick, whose usually candy-colored imaginary creatures hint at the wonderful, fully post-modern movie this could have been.
December 04, 2004
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Most of the beguiling ideas that constitute The Life Aquatic are all setup, so the sotto voce comedy has no momentum. Anderson’s deadpan, self-conscious-white-man funkiness works best, it seems, in his trailers (as with the moment Murray demonstrates the Zissou team’s helmet music, subtly grooving to a Mark Mothersbaugh techno beat). There are few fully cocked laugh lines, and no money shots.
November 30, 2004
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