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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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Title: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou  
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Subject: Wes Anderson, List of film director and actor collaborations, Matthew Gray Gubler, Anjelica Huston, 9th Golden Satellite Awards
Collection: 2000S Adventure Films, 2000S Comedy-Drama Films, 2004 Films, American Adventure Comedy Films, American Adventure Drama Films, American Comedy-Drama Films, American Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Mark Mothersbaugh, Films About Filmmaking, Films About Revenge, Films Directed by Wes Anderson, Films Produced by Scott Rudin, Films Set in Italy, Films Shot in Italy, Pirate Films, Screenplays by Wes Anderson, Seafaring Films, Touchstone Pictures Films
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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by
Written by
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by David Moritz
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 20, 2004 (2004-11-20) (Los Angeles)
  • December 25, 2004 (2004-12-25) (United States)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million
Box office $34.8 million

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a 2004 American comedy-drama film directed, co-written, and co-produced by Wes Anderson.[1][2] It is Anderson's fourth feature-length film, released in the U.S. on Christmas 2004. It was written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach and was filmed in and around Naples, Ponza, and the Italian Riviera.

The film stars Bud Cort are also featured in the film.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Literary inspiration 3.1
    • Music 3.2
  • Reception 4
    • Box office 4.1
    • Critical response 4.2
    • Accolades 4.3
  • Home media 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


While oceanographer and documentarian Steve Zissou is working on his latest documentary at sea, his best friend Esteban du Plantier is eaten by a creature Zissou describes as a "Jaguar shark." For his next project, Zissou is determined to document the shark's destruction.

The crew aboard Zissou's research vessel Belafonte includes Pelé dos Santos, a safety expert and Brazilian musician who sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, and Klaus Daimler, the German second-in-command who viewed Zissou and Esteban as father figures. Minor crew members include Vikram Ray, a cameraman, described in Zissou's film documentary as a man "born on the Ganges"; Bobby Ogata, a frogman who is usually seen eating; Vladimir Wolodarsky, original score composer; Renzo Pietro, sound man; and Anne-Marie Sakowitz, script girl, who is often topless. "Team Zissou" also includes a pack of unpaid college interns from the (fictional) University of North Alaska.

Ned Plimpton is a polite Southern gentleman whose mother has recently died. He believes that Zissou is his father. After they meet at a film premiere, Ned takes a break from his job as an airline pilot in Kentucky to join Zissou's crew. As no one else will finance the latest documentary, Ned agrees to support the new film with his inheritance. A reporter, Jane Winslett-Richardson, comes to chronicle the voyage. She is also pregnant with her married boss's child. A rivalry develops between Ned and Zissou, both infatuated with Jane. Klaus also is envious of the attention Zissou pays to Ned.

On their mission to find the Jaguar shark, the Belafonte crew has to deal with an attack by pirates. Sakowitz, along with all but one of the interns, jumps ship after the raid. The interns who leave receive "incomplete" grades for the course. The Belafonte crew launches a sneak attack on the pirates to retrieve their money and rescue a "bond company stooge", Bill Ubell, who had been hired by Zissou's producer Oseary Drakoulias. They also discover and rescue Zissou's nemesis, Alistair Hennessey, who is successful, suave, and rich, and was once married to Zissou's wife Eleanor. The crew is pursued by the pirates, escaping to the Belafonte on a fishing boat. They are forced to leave behind the pirates' dog "Cody" that Steve befriended after the pirates left it behind on the Belafonte earlier.

While searching for the shark, the ship's helicopter crashes, injuring Zissou and fatally injuring Ned. Ned later dies and is buried at sea. A puzzled Eleanor reveals to Jane that Zissou is actually sterile and therefore Ned could not have been his son.

Zissou finally tracks down the shark but decides not to kill it, both because of its beauty and not having any dynamite. At the premiere of the finished documentary (which is dedicated in the memory of Ned), Zissou receives a grand ovation.

The crew is then shown returning to the ship. As everyone boards the ship we can see Ned's image on the top deck, one foot on the railing and possibly holding a pipe, looking over the rest of the crew as a sort of guardian angel for adventures to come.

Pelé sings as the credits roll.



Literary inspiration

Though the characters were inspired by such American novels as The Great Gatsby and The Magnificent Ambersons, the plot has been compared to Moby-Dick.[3]

Writing about the metaphorical aspects of the film's setting — somewhere in the Mediterranean — film critic Elena Past says that the underwater scenes, because they are central to the storyline, make The Life Aquatic similar in some ways to Respiro. Both films set out a "Mediterranean state of being" where "having left the security of land, the characters in both films are suddenly confronted with the precarious nature of human existence, as the films that depict them tackle the challenges of representing the submarine world."[4]


The soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou contains a style typical of other Wes Anderson films.

  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at AllMovie
  • N.P. Thompson Wednesday, (June 15, 2005). "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The Criterion Collection, $32.99.". 
  • "Captain Neato" Christian Lorentzen's review of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in n+1 (23 April 2010)

External links

  1. ^ A. O. Scott (2004-12-10). "A Seagoing Showcase of Human Collectibles". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Michael Wilmington (2004-12-22). "'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'". The Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ Govender, Dyalan. "Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Melville's Moby Dick: A Comparative Study".  
  4. ^ Past, Elena (Spring 2009). "Lives Aquatic: Mediterranean Cinema and an Ethics of Underwater Existence".  
  5. ^ Carle, Chris (May 4, 2005). "Review: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Original Soundtrack".  
  6. ^ "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou".  
  7. ^ "Life Aquatic at Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  8. ^ The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou at Metacritic
  9. ^  
  10. ^ "Wes Anderson - Explore - The Criterion Collection". Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  11. ^ "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Blu-ray". Retrieved 2014-06-02. 


See also

Two home video formats of the film were released on DVD in 2005: a 1-disc version and a 2-disc version, both as part of the Criterion Collection. This is Anderson's third film to be released in the collection, after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.[10] The Criterion Blu-ray was released on 27 May 2014.[11]

Home media

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Art Directors Guild Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary Film Mark Friedberg, Stefano Maria Ortolani, Eugenio Ulissi, Marco Trentini, Simona Migliotti, Giacomo Calò Carducci, Saverio Sammali, Nazzareno Piana, Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Giulia Chiara Crugnola Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Wes Anderson Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Cast Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Bud Cort, Anjelica Huston, Michael Gambon, Bill Murray, Noah Taylor Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Acting Ensemble Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Owen Wilson, Bud Cort, Anjelica Huston, Michael Gambon, Bill Murray, Noah Taylor Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards Actor of the Year Cate Blanchett Won
Costume Designers Guild Awards Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Costume Design for a Contemporary Film Milena Canonero Won
Golden Trailer Awards Best Comedy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett Won
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Best Sound Editing in a Feature Richard Henderson Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA Best Music - Feature The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Actor - Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy Bill Murray Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Nominated
Golden Satellite Awards Best Original Screenplay Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach Nominated


Anthony Lane, a film reviewer for The New Yorker, agreed with the conventional criticism of Anderson's deadpan style: that the underreaction of Anderson's characters used to be "hip" but has now become "frozen into a mannerism." He said that "some stretches of action" in the film are being "lightly held within quotation marks," with an "unmistakable air of playacting" in even the most violent scenes. He also criticized the film's deliberately "weird" set ups, which leave the viewer with "the impression of having nearly drowned in some secret and melancholy game."[9]

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has a 56% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 199 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10; the website's consensus states: "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is getting soaked by many critics, who call it smug, ironic and artificial. Still, others have praised the movie's sheer uniqueness, eccentricity and whimsy."[7] The film has a 62/100 weighted average score on Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]

Critical response

The film grossed a total of $24,020,403 domestically after twelve weeks in release, less than half its $50 million production budget. It took in a further $10,788,000 internationally, bringing the total gross to $34,808,403.[6]

Box office


The Life Aquatic is Anderson's first film not to feature a Rolling Stones song.

. Sigur Ros The ending scene depicting the beauty of the shark features the song "Staralfur" by [5]

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