In “Becoming Cousteau”, dive into the depths of Jacques | Nation / World

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NEW YORK (AP) – Who exactly was Jacques-Yves Cousteau?

He was an oceanographer and explorer but had no scientific degree. He was an environmentalist whose trips were however sometimes financed by oil companies in search of drilling sites. He was a filmmaker who made underwater documentaries from another world – three won the Oscar for Best Documentary – but he didn’t like the term. He preferred “adventure films”.

Perhaps Cousteau’s legacy is, and rightly so, more fluid. Perhaps more than anything else, Cousteau symbolized a spirit of boundless adventure, drawing an Earthly audience into enchanted underwater worlds. A mermaid of the seas.

In “Becoming Cousteau” by Liz Garbus, an editor named John Soh of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” on ABC struggles with the difficulty of labeling Cousteau to conclude: “He was a man who looked to the future” .

“Becoming Cousteau,” which National Geographic opens in theaters Friday, attempts to showcase the singular Cousteau and his legacy as the premier conservationist in increasingly threatened waters. It’s a defining documentary portrait of the French oceanographer – the real Steve Zissou – as a genuinely content fish below the surface.

“I’m miserable out of the water,” said Cousteau, who died in 1993, in a recording of the film. “It is as if you have been introduced to Heaven and then pushed back to Earth. “

The film, which will debut Nov. 24 on Disney +, has a toe in the mystical, dreamy realm of Cousteau’s own creation – the otherworldly underwater photograph he took with Louis Malle; stylish adventures on the high seas aboard the Calypso – and another in a more subdued reality of ocean pollution that Cousteau watched with growing concern. In recent years, his popular Emmy-winning nature series has grown darker and more ominous.

“At the end of his life, I think he felt like Cassandra was screaming at everyone about this impending disaster,” Garbus explains. “He certainly suffered commercially for that too. They were like: these shows are depressing. ‘”

Garbus, the prolific documentary maker of two Oscar-nominated documentaries (“What Happened Miss Simone?” “The Farm: Angola, USA”) and a host of others (“The Fourth Estate”, “All In: The Fight for Democracy” ), began developing the film in 2015. But it took years for access to be approved by the Cousteau Company and its estate.

Cousteau’s second wife, Francine Cousteau, and their two children, Pierre Yves and Dianne, are the executive producers of the film. (Cousteau also had two other sons: Jean-Michel and Philippe, who died in a plane crash in 1979.) Working with the family, Garbus says, was “very complicated”.

“Becoming Cousteau” may be clear about some of the late-years feuds over his sizable empire, including the bankrupt Cousteau Oceanic Park theme park near Paris. But he does not escape the complexities of Cousteau’s evolution from a former naval officer diving off the French Riviera in the Mediterranean to a world-renowned explorer and artist synonymous with the sea who captured the imagination of the public.

“I haven’t reread ‘The Iliad’ but looked back on some stuff on Odysseus’s journey,” Garbus says. “At the last moment he is ashore and he is told to keep walking and bring the oar to find people who have never seen the sea and tell them about it. And that’s what he did.

Cousteau’s legacy also includes the co-creation of the Aqua-lung, freeing scuba diving from clunky devices and giving birth to the use of diving. For Garbus, he also paved the way for generations of filmmakers, from last year’s Oscar winner “My Octopus Teacher,” to James Cameron. This makes Garbus wonder what Cousteau would do with today’s non-fiction ecosystem.

“What would he think if he was alive today with the streamers and all the competition for documentary content?” I wonder if he would revise that statement or be more proud of it, ”Garbus says.

“He probably wouldn’t have liked to sit down for a long interview with people like me,” she adds. “But I hope he would have felt his life is working – that conservation message – is honored in the film and comes at a time when we desperately need it.” “

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