Aug 14, 2005

Broken Flowers and Life Aquatic

The last DVD I watched was The Life Aquatic (with Steve Zissou) starring Bill Murray and written and directed by Wes Anderson. With the same quirky feel as Bill Murray's last few movies, The Life Aquatic uses decayed opulence as a metaphor for the squandered life of Bill Murray's character; much as Wes Anderson did in The Royal Tennenbaums. I loved the soundtrack, which has a strangely familiar sound. About halfway through the film, I realized that much of the music is comprised of classic David Bowie songs (Ziggy Stardust era) in acoustic arrangements, sung in Portuguese. The effect is beautiful and quite haunting. The Life Aquatic tells the story of an aging JacquesYves Cousteau type (Bill Murray) whose best friend is killed by a jaguar shark, sending him off to find and kill the shark. Just before his quest begins, he is contacted by the adult son he's never met (Owen Wilson), and they end up going off on the adventure together. It's an odd little movie with an interesting visuals; I especially like the the still pictures used in the portholes of the yellow submarine. Jeff Goldblum and Angelica Huston have great supporting roles and the closing credits are shown over a sequence like the one at the end of Buckaroo Bonzai in the 8th Dimension.

I saw Broken Flowers this weekend and enjoyed it a lot. In recent years, Bill Murray seems to have gone from doing the slightly manic and sarcastic comedy he was famous for in the 70's and 80's, to playing characters who are much more introspective and melancholy. His character, Don Johnston, in Broken Flowers fits the mold of the successful, older man, who is looking back on his life and wondering what happened to the years that have passed and to the happy ending he is not living. He's an aging Don Juan who receives a mysterious letter on pink stationary informing him that he is the father of a 19 year-old son, who may be looking for him. The unsigned letter sends him on a cross-country quest to find the mother of the child he never met. His odyssey leads him to the homes of four former lovers and allows him to glimpse the lives might have lead, if he had chosen to settle down.

The music in Broken Flowers is fabulous. The soundtrack is anchored by Ethiopian jazz, which gives it a very cool, mellow groove. There are a couple of songs by the Greenehornes and Holly Golightly in which her Patti Smith-esque voice evokes an ultra-hip, smoky 1960's nightclub. The music and the movie are a wonderful combination.

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