Monday, July 31, 2006

More Writing The Life Aquatic

Finished the The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou DVD commentary by writers Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. In tonight’s segment we come to a section where Zissou shows his “son” Ned a letter he carries written by Ned long ago (we've seen earlier that Ned carries Zissou's reply). The scenes are intercut with closeups of the letters in the time and place they were written. Anderson mentions Pauline Kael (“she’s certainly what made me interested in [filmmaker Jean-Luc] Godard”) and seems to credit Godard with the significant role letters play in his work and with his use of text on the screen…

WA [discussing Kael on Godard]: And she talks about how Godard’s movies are filled with – they’re literary, they’re filled with words. There’s titles on the screen and there’s letters and there’s writing everywhere. And there’s people quoting – people just reciting from books, and I do that. And this movie, now we’re looking at another letter [from Ned to Zissou] – it’s filled with writing.

NB: And I like- again, something he might do, his- we see Ned reading a crumpled up letter that’s obviously been around a long time, but then when we go to the insert, we go to the original letter [when it was first written] in a very formal way, with the pencil above it.

WA: Yes. In fact, I think one of the letters is situated in this environment where Zissou would have written it and Ned’s is situated in this place where Ned would have written it – his desk, when he was 11, and a half.

NB: And it brings- we talked about how you use words and letter-writing – in a ???[filmmaker’s name], when people write letters they actually speak to the camera and they’re superimposed over images…

This exchange struck a cord with me as well. I’m doing a bit of spring cleaning, going through old papers and what I seem to be hanging on to is meaningful correspondence, just as we see in The Life Aquatic. I’m fascinated by the attention to detail Anderson brings (his trademark) to the close-up on the writing space. The kind, condition, and placement of the paper. Each character’s handwriting. Pencils and a ruler just so. These details reveal so much about the characters themselves, perhaps more than the words they speak.

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