What I Look for in a movie

These two paragraphs from a LA Times review of the movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou hint at the kind of movies I love most.

An exquisitely evocative movie that elevates rueful melancholia to a superpower, “The Life Aquatic,” co-written with Noah Baumbach, is not exactly a plot-lover’s pizza. Anderson is all about the resonant image, an anachronistic tic he cops to up front. Before the first character is introduced, the camera lingers in wide-angle on a large Renaissance tableau serving as a backdrop for a stage. It’s a familiar shorthand: Frame the vantage point, maybe hang drapes in the periphery, and wait for someone to meander into the frame. What we’re about to see is not reality but an artistic interpretation of it — no more a “slice of life” than a slice of pie.

The Life Aquatic” does that thing movies used to think they were supposed to do: paint with light, sculpt in time, drive you nuts with longing for something hard to pinpoint that you probably never had, deliver an emotional experience from which you won’t recover. In “The Life Aquatic,” this is achieved through an ineffable alchemy of red wool caps, pale blue Speedos, “Zissou” Adidas, acoustic David Bowie songs sung in Portuguese by a Brazilian crew member named Pelé (namesake of the world’s greatest soccer player), the welling (twice) of Bill Murray’s tears and Tintin tableaux of the entire ragtag crew — including a turban-wearing cameraman named Vikram — crammed into a yellow deep-sea exploration vessel.


2 thoughts on “What I Look for in a movie

  1. Yes, it’s too bad the Life Aquatic sucked.

    Other movies that elevate “rueful melancholia” and paint with light:

    * Lost in Translation
    * Fanny and Alexander (the 4 hour TV version only)
    * Leolo
    * Royal Tennenbaums

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