Song of the Day #4,829: ‘The Way I Feel Inside’ – The Zombies

Wes Anderson’s fourth film came three years after the success of The Royal Tenenbaums and did not continue his hot streak. 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou received a lukewarm response from critics, at best, and earned only $35 million against a $50 million budget.

In the 17 years since its release, however, The Life Aquatic has found new life among film fans and has emerged as something of a cult classic.

I was on board from the start. While this film is certainly no Rushmore or The Royal Tenebaums, it has a madcap zany energy and a fierce imagination. It indulges in the schoolboy fantasy of a roguish Jacques Cousteau figure gleefully shattering legal and societal norms, but its underlying theme about facing mortality is serious and poignant.

I think some people have trouble embracing Anderson’s films because of those wild tonal shifts between absurdity and pain. Can you take a mournful moment seriously when it’s surrounded by such arch hilarity? How you answer that question may well determine whether these movies are for you.

In The Life Aquatic, both Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) are grieving the recent deaths of loved ones. I didn’t realize until this rewatch of all of his films how prevalent grief is in Anderson’s filmography. Seven of his nine movies feature main characters dealing with a personal loss.

Here, that sadness is surrounded by an adventure tale featuring a spotted jaguar shark, a pirate attack, an island raid to rescue a “bond company stooge,” and a ship’s mate who spends most of his time singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese. A little too much quirk for some audiences, it seems.

I find the film very funny and bittersweet, and I love how the anarchy and unexpected violence of the film’s middle act break the mold of Anderson’s previous films. I’m also intrigued by the way The Life Aquatic comments on the filmmaking process. Zissou is a documentary director, responsible for a cast and crew at sea, and the movie has fun exploring and satirizing that relationship.

Should I try to hide
The way I feel inside
My heart, for you?
Would you say that you
Would try to love me too?
In your mind
Could you ever be
Really close to me?
I can tell the way you smile
If I feel that I
Could be certain, then
I would say the things
I want to say tonight

But ’til I can see
That you’d really care for me
I will dream
That someday you’ll be
Really close to me
I can tell the way you smile
If I feel that I
Could be certain, then
I would say the things
I want to say tonight

But ’til I can see
That you’d really care for me
I’ll keep trying to hide
The way I feel inside

11 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,829: ‘The Way I Feel Inside’ – The Zombies

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    As a general rule, films that can be described as “madcap,” “zany” and “arch hilarity” with “tonal shifts” of violence and mourning are not going to be my cup of tea. Throw in a character singing Bowie songs in Portuguese and I’m done.

  2. Peg says:

    This one I did not see. I remember trying and just not able to get into it. Maybe I should give it another try some day when I’m in a “madcap” frame of mind 😊

  3. Amy says:

    lol – guess it was chronologically ;P

  4. Amy says:

    So… this was the film where I read about the amount of money Anderson spent to get some special Italian tile in one of the rooms…. and I just couldn’t get anything about what he was after. Why it mattered. How it was supposed to enhance my experience as a member of the audience. In fact, I came away feeling as if the film hadn’t been made for an audience at all but for Anderson and his friends. Or at least that Anderson cared little about that audience.

    Truthfully, I can make a case for an artist ignoring the potential reception from an audience and just making following his artistic vision where it takes him, but here I found myself annoyed at how “in” all the jokes were (or at least I perceived them to be) and how much he seemed to relish making something that would be niche.

    Perhaps that’s what strikes Dana when he says that he finds Anderson’s films “pretentious.” When an artist is preoccupied with his art to the point that he’s investing gobs of money in a particular tile that will matter to nobody but him (and some of the film fans who enjoy obsessing over such details, I suppose), isn’t that pretentious? By any definition of that word?

    Your observation about his films having a focus on grief is fascinating, as I certainly have no memory of that as a recurring theme in his films. My ever percolating theory about why Anderson’s films don’t stick with me may be gaining steam. I may likely be a bit of a simpleton when it comes to art and entertainment, but when I think of films/theater/novels/television shows that grapple with grief, I recall sniffling to sobbing at everything from Inside Out to Hamilton, from Truly, Madly, Deeply to The Leftovers, from Ordinary People to Spiderman. No matter how long ago I may have experienced the work of art, its exploration of grief sticks with me because it was palpable at the time I experienced it.

    Perhaps it is Anderson’s studied – and intentional – distance from his subject and his audience that keeps me removed during the viewing experience, enabling me to almost completely forget the film not long after seeing it? I’m not sure, but I’ll keep percolating….

    • Clay says:

      Lots to digest here!

      First, I don’t know the specific story of the Italian tile, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s typical of many directors to fuss over small details like that. I’m sure Wes Anderson is fussier than most, but he also spends very little money on his movies, so it’s not like he’s needlessly extravagant.

      I think most directors would say that little details DO add up to make a difference to the audience, even at a subconscious level. Maybe they’re wrong, but I bet they all believe it.

      I also think Anderson is less like that than his films would suggest. I just read a book about his filmography, and one of the points he made in an interview was that, despite the perception that his movies are completely planned down to the last detail, so many things end up happening spontaneously on the day of the shoot.

      As for the grief thing, I’ve always found that Anderson’s films have a deep strain of melancholy that sticks with me. And I feel it even more on repeat viewings.

      • Dana Gallup says:

        Your response feels like the film version of a false equivalency.

        And I suspect Anderson’s notion of spontaneity is when a bird flies by.

        And I too feel a deep strain of melancholy that sticks with me when I watch an Anderson film, but not for the reason you do. 🤪

      • Amy says:

        I agree that details absolutely matter. I remember writing an essay in college about the details in Woody Allen’s films… the album Diane Wiest’s character briefly looks at in Hannah, along with all the shops and bars that populate all of his films (and a bunch of other things I don’t remember now 😜).

        Such Specificity often elevates a film for me. That’s different than spending gobs of money on the tile on the floor, I think, because the set designers could have replicated the look and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the audience.

        As for melancholy on repeated viewings, I appreciate that. I certainly feel it with RT, the only one of his films I’ve seen repeatedly.

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