Connecticut Post (Sunday)

‘Becoming Cousteau’ dives into the depths of Jacques

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Who was Jacques-Yves Cousteau, exactly?

He was an oceanograp­her and explorer but held no scientific degree. He was an environmen­talist whose voyages were neverthele­ss sometimes funded by oil companies seeking drilling sites. He was a filmmaker who made otherworld­ly undersea documentar­ies — three won best documentar­y Oscars — but he disliked the term. He preferred “adventure films.”

Maybe Cousteau’s legacy is, appropriat­ely, more fluid. Perhaps more than anything else, Cousteau symbolized a boundless spirit of adventure, leading a landlubbin­g public into enchanted underwater worlds. A siren of the seas.

In Liz Garbus’ “Becoming Cousteau,” an editor named John Soh from ABC’s “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” wrestles with the difficulty of labeling Cousteau only to conclude: “He was a man looking at the future.”

“Becoming Cousteau,” which National Geographic opens in theaters Friday, attempts to frame the singular Cousteau and his legacy as an early environmen­tal defender of increasing­ly imperiled waters. It’s a defining documentar­y portrait of the French oceanograp­her — the real-life Steve Zissou — as a fish only truly content below the surface.

“I am miserable out of the water,” Cousteau, who died in 1993, says in a recording in the film. “It is as though you’ve been introduced to heaven and then forced back to Earth.”

The film, which will debut Nov. 24 on Disney+, has one toe in the dreamy mystical realm of Cousteau’s own making — the otherworld­ly underwater photograph­y he shot with Louis Malle; the stylish, highseas adventures aboard the Calypso — and another in a more sober reality of ocean pollution that Cousteau watched with growing concern. In later years, his popular, Emmy-winning nature series turned increasing­ly grim and ominous.

 ?? The Cousteau Society / AP ?? Jacques Cousteau aboard his ship "Calypso" in the 1970s, from the documentar­y “Becoming Cousteau,” opening in theaters Friday.
The Cousteau Society / AP Jacques Cousteau aboard his ship "Calypso" in the 1970s, from the documentar­y “Becoming Cousteau,” opening in theaters Friday.

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