Oscar nominated writer, director, producer Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) and his favorite leading man Bill Murray — looking every inch the paterfamilias in paunch and gray beard — return December 10 (NY/LA, December 25 nationwide) with Touchstone’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, which looks to continue their mutual affinities for dry, subversive humor (albeit in a wet environment) and sneaky poignancy.
Also starring Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon (the new Dumbledore), Bud Cort (what’s “Harold” been doing the last 33 years?), the film follows internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Murray) and his crew — Team Zissou — as they set sail on an expedition (“illegal suicide mission”) to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existant Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their last adventure.
They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou’s son (Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou’s estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Huston). Complications include pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy – you know, the usual.
The film was shot on location in Italy and at Cinecitta studios in Rome. The undersea world of the film was created in collaboration with the director and stop-motion animator Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach).
In addition to the trailer (WM) (QuickTime), two more “webisodes” are available focusing on Wilson as Murray’s “probable” son: “Ned Pt 1” (Real), (WM), (QuickTime), and “Ned Pt 2” (Real), (WM), (QuickTime). My favorite part, and I hope an indication of the prevalent tone of the movie, is when Murray and Wilson stand on deck at night waxing profound on the mysterious beauty of the call of the Jack whales.
Anderson is also known for the quality and the care that goes into his soundtracks. The focus this time is ur-period early-’70s Bowie (“Life On Mars” “Starman” “Rebel Rebel” “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” “Five Years”) as rerecorded samba style by Brazilian Seu Jorge, who also appears in the film, in addition to two in their original form (“Life On Mars” and the trailer theme “Queen Bitch” with some of Mick Ronson’s most elemental, powerful guitar work). A quirky blend of Devo, Scott Walker, Joan Baez, Iggy and the Stooges, Paco de Lucia, The Zombies, and original score selections by Mark Mothersbaugh round out the musical buffet.