Monday, March 2, 2009

Classic Scene #3: "It's pretty good isn't it"

'The Jaguar Shark' scene in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

I promise to run a scene that isn't a ending next time round, but the moments I found myself thinking about today were the huge spoiler scene in LA Confidential and the ending of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004). Whilst The Royal Tenenbaums is easily be my favourite Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic might be the one I hold dearest. Maligned and underappreciated on its release, this is a film that will reward those who return to it and could even be a most necessary film for anyone who finds doubt in their purpose or generally suffering from melancholic maladies.

Watching Life Aquatic the first time round I confess was roundly baffled by the point so close the movie itself skirted with meaninglessness in its whimsical meanderings, entertaining and colourful though they certainly were. I got that this was a Moby Dick parody about revenge and one man facing the reality that he is over-the-hill, broken both emotionally and in practicality, chasing little more than his own lost dreams. But until the end it all seemed somewhat hollow, all style and literally no heart only a malaise. Rarely have I experienced all the pieces of a character puzzle so subtly and melodically fall into place as the Life Aquatic's climactic scene, which took me to a place I never expected and landed a heart-rendering sucker punch squarely on my gut.

This is a fragile piece of cinema no doubt, a portrait that takes its time to unfold. Bill Murray was in a class of his own at the time, but the emotion he packs into a character so tired and so stiff totally sweeps me off my feet every time I see this scene. Upon finally discovering the Jaguar Shark deep in the ocean accompanied by his team, estranged-wife (Anjelica Huston), journalist (Cate Blanchett) and rival (Jeff Goldblum), Steve Zissou no longer wants to blow it up, "we're out of dynamite anyway," he quips. When he wonders out loud if the shark remembers him and the emotion squeezes its way onto his face we recognise a profound moment in this character's essence of being and the deep sadness that comes with the realisation of dreams that were never really about the object of the obsession, rather they are just the symbol of something much deeper and personal.

And all this occurs to the wonderful 'Staralfur' by Sigur Ross, a band whose musically I could quite fittingly lose myself for in eternity. Enough from me, check out the scene below and tell me what you think...