Remembering Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Explorer, inventor, and crusading conservationist, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who died June 25, at 87, codeveloped the Aqua-Lung and helped make scuba diving an international pastime. But this undersea trailblazer will be best remembered as a documentarian of more than 150 films. Cousteau won Oscars for three of his earlier efforts, The Silent World (1956, with cinematography by Louis Malle), The Golden Fish (1959), and World Without Sun (1965). Unfortunately, none of the trio is available on video in the U.S. What do remain are more than 50 of Cousteau’s productions for television, which form an enduring testament to his pioneering vision. Before PBS’ Nature, before the Discovery Channel, this peripatetic Frenchman brought a vast new world into our living rooms. Some high points:
The Singing Whale (1975, Bennett Marine) This eloquent plea to save the whales features startling footage of whalers launching grenade-tipped harpoons into unsuspecting humpbacks. But the most persuasive images are those of a mother and calf, swimming amid Cousteau’s divers with awe-inspiring grace.
Amazon (1984, Turner) Cousteau explores the earth’s most amazing river in a 7,000-mile odyssey that spawned a series of TV documentaries. The five titles available (on four tapes) form a sprawlingly detailed portrait of a teeming ecosystem.
Pioneer of the Sea (1985, Turner) Compiled for Cousteau’s 75th birthday, this career overview offers 30 years of filmed highlights, including all-too-short snippets from The Silent World and World Without Sun.