The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or Moby Dick re-imagined as a comedy of enlightenment

Films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, in which he played a fractured Jacques Cousteau, are closer to comedies than they might appear, Murray says, as intellectually tuned to the dynamics of comedy as he is instinctive. “Every single scene of that movie was funny, but when Wes assembled it, he streamlined and excised the detonation point of the laughter. The idea is you keep it bouncing and never skim the energy off of it. You keep it building in the name of a big emotional payoff—which comes when they’re all in the submarine together and they see the jaguar shark.” source.

“Steve is a man who likes to be in control of everything even though he can’t control much. His mission to kill the Jaguar Shark is the ultimate act of hubris: he wants nothing less than to track and kill Death and re-assert autonomy over his life…

Near the end of the story, Zissou, his crewmates, his ex-wife, his patron, and his chief rival pile into a yellow submersible, descend to the ocean floor (bottoming out) and observe the monster through portholes. It’s a meeting rather than a battle, and it seems to restore everyone’s equilibrium, especially Steve’s. They can’t kill death or let it live; all they can do is watch it swim up to the sub, snag a fish and swim away. Steve’s catharsis comes not through dynamite, but tears. “I wonder if it remembers me?” he asks. The sequence is the ghastly climax of Moby Dick re-imagined as a comedy of enlightenment: Ahab finally confronts the beast that maimed him and realizes it was nothing personal.” Worth Reading.

I will add that I have a mistrust I cannot quite place in our culture’s idolization of Bill Murray.

Still, there is this from the same interview:

“The one time I got a bunch of prizes, I just assumed I’d win them all,” he says, rubbing his legs thoughtfully. “Because I’d been winning them all. I wasn’t disappointed or anything, but I was surprised.”

About six months later, however, he had a vivid realization: “I really saw something in myself and I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I really did want that thing!’ Some part of me was disappointed that I got tricked into thinking it was important. I told myself, if that happens again, I don’t want to do that.” He stares down at the table. “I’ve since realized that it was good I didn’t win, because I wasn’t ready. Guys go for five years without working because they’re thinking, ‘Oh, this isn’t Oscar-worthy.’ They become paralyzed. So. It would have fed that thing that I found in myself, without my even knowing. It would have been really malformed. Because I had it wrong.”

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