(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

This is a biography of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Just like Valerie Taylor in PLAYING WITH SHARKS, Cousteau started with spear fishing and dynamiting to count fish, but ended as a strong environmentalist. Cousteau describes being underwater like being in heaven, where you have no gravity; it is utterly fantastic. His earliest interests were in flying (also in a sense a realm of decreased gravity), but a bad accident convinced him to change track to deep-sea diving and brought him to a fascination that would obviously last his whole life.

Although the photography is in monochrome at the beginning (due to the constraints of early underwater photography), some shots or parts of them are then colorized, either realistically or in a more psychedelic fashion. Interviews with Stuart Paton (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1916)), and Louis Malle discussed some of the constraints. Malle's film with Cousteau, THE SILENT WORLD, won the Oscar for Best Documentary, though Cousteau says, "Our films are not documentaries. They are true adventure films."

The demands of the environment under the sea suggested to Cousteau technical inventions for better exploring and understanding that environment, including the aqualung. World War II interrupted his diving but when it was over, new opportunities with the Navy came along in terms of exploring sunken ships and planes. When diving using the aqualung, he could see much more under the water, but there were dangers from "Rapture of the Deeps". His dedicated ship, Calypso, a refurbished mine sweeper, first sailed in 1951. In 1953 he was offered a job in oil research, and found (among other things) Abu Dhabi's oil. Later he found himself regretting some of these choices.

Cousteau made many films and television shows. The first episode of "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" was about sharks; Cousteau was far less sanguine than Valerie Taylor about sharks' natures, though his attitude was never that there should be a mass slaughter of them. Cousteau also once foresaw a time when people would live in cities under the sea, but came to reject that idea. BECOMING COUSTEAU goes into how Cousteau's views evolved and how he got involved in saving the ecologies of the seas and oceans. These days nearly every documentary about nature will contain a downbeat note that the world we see is being destroyed by the selfishness of people, and this film is no different.

Caveat: The subtitles for French-speakers are very badly done, with white-on-white making them hard to read.

Released theatrically 10/22/21. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2021 Mark R. Leeper