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Musical Space

Musical Space: Life Aquatic (Repeat)


Some film scores are best when they take the familiar and make it unfamiliar, as Mark Foley notes this week on Musical Space.

Let’s talk about the score to the 2004 Wes Anderson-directed film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. The film and its score are remarkable for their refreshing perspectives on the familiar.

The main function of a score is to underline the film’s action or a character’s emotions. At worst this can make a score repetitive, predictable and cliched. At their best, scores work in seamless concert with the film. The Life Aquatic is firmly in the latter category.

The score is populated by songs from Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, the legendary punk rock band The Stooges,and Iceland’s Sigur Ros.

But the punctuation of the score, its exuberant exclamation points and cascading compound conjunctions can be found in the David Bowie songs performed by the Brazilian singer Seu Jorge. Sung in Portuguese with acoustic guitar as the sole accompaniment, the songs achieve an amazingly beautiful post Bossa Nova that highlights the alienation the characters feel as they fumble through their awkward lives before they find solace in the complexity and fragility of human emotions.

Just listen to Jorge’s performance of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”