The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is Wes Anderson’s best film. It has the best outfits, the best cast, the best plot and best character development. Don’t let the color palate fool you; it’s basically a revenge movie like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
But it’s also Wes Anderson’s best because it has the best music of any of his films — no mean feat — thanks to Seu Jorge, whose acoustic covers of David Bowie classics (sung in Portuguese) punctuate the chapters in the story.
Seu Jorge is a Brazilian singer-songwriter who plays Pelé dos Santos in the film. Officially, his character is Team Zissou’s safety expert, and he’s often seen at the edge of the frame being recorded while singing and playing the guitar. These recordings would later become The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions, and I’m just as grateful as David Bowie that these were made into an album.
I don’t know if it’s the acoustic guitar, the Portuguese, the ocean air or what, but the songs almost improve on Bowie’s work; it’s incredible. You know that feeling when you don’t know the lyrics to a song except for the last word in every verse? So you mumble until you get to the last syllable, and then just belt it? Damn, it feels good! Well, this entire album elicits that feeling.
It’s hard to pick a favorite song. The easygoing stroll of “Rebel Rebel” is lovely. The crescendo of “Life on Mars?” is devastating. The energy of “Starman” makes me want to dance. And the muffled strum of “Five Years” gets me every time. The energy I mentioned is outdone by the song featured here, “Ziggy Stardust.”
I wouldn’t say “Ziggy” is the best song on the album because I love them all, but it definitely has the best tempo for back road driving. Its opening chords blow the doors off and then Jorge starts wailing! I do my best to match words here and there, but always lose my place until I catch Jorge in the ooh-and-ahh after the chorus. I’m telling you: yelling incoherently in your car doesn’t get much better than this. Ah, Team Zissou. On the water I love you, indeed.