© Buena Vista International (Germany) GmbH

Die Tiefseetaucher (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
U.S.A. 2004

Opening 17 Mar 2005

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Writing credits: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Principal actors: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe

Take a deep breath before you dive into the water with Team Zissou – it seems like a long time before you’re back on the surface. But at least you get to see some amazing fish.

Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is an aging oceanographer à la Jacque Cousteau, who has been somewhat successful making documentary films, followed up by merchandising with even a Team Zissou fan club. However his aquatic world is showing signs of decay. His ship (the Belafonte), submarine, sea plane, hot-air balloon, helicopter and Mediterranean island all need time in dry dock for repairs. His latest money-making adventure is to catch the jaguar shark that attacked and killed his former partner. He promises his public to kill it for revenge.

He is joined on board the Belafonte with an eccentric crew that includes his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston), a reporter (Cate Blanchett) who reads aloud Proust’s A la Recherde du Temps Perdu to her unborn child, a Kentucky Airways pilot who claims to be his illegitimate son and a security guard who sings old David Bowie songs, samba style, in Portuguese (Seu Jorge). The crew all wear little red knit caps that reminded me of the Where's Waldo? children’s books.

This is the third film that director Wes Anderson has made with Bill Murray; Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums were their other comic films about dysfunctional families. Co-written with Noah Baumbach, Anderson said that the concept came from a short story he had written in college but never finished. That explains it!

Bill Murray plays his perfect deadpan fall guy act but there’s no one bouncing off him. Too disengaged, disconnected and disorienting to keep up any momentum – more a feeling of vertigo – not knowing where’s up unless you follow the bubbles. The film lacks both the emotional intensity of a Moby Dick (adapted by Angelica Huston’s father) and the creative curiosity of the old Cousteau documentaries.

The most visually appealing was the bisection of the research ship Belafonte, showing all five stories that included a laboratory and spa. The exotic fish swimming by were actually three-dimensional models with stop motion animation. (Patricia Ritz)

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