As Kenny G gets deeper into the kind of mash-ups that created his controversial collaboration with Louis Armstrong and allows his ego to emerge more fully (such as in a bit about how he could easily win an Oscar for Best Original Song if a filmmaker would just hire him), he started to lose me a bit. And I liked that. I like that even Lane seems a bit skeptical of Kenny at times by the end, but she still captures how much he means to people. After all, there needs to be some musical furniture out there.
A very different portrait of a man emerges in Liz Garbus’ National Geographic doc “Becoming Cousteau,” a film that sometimes feels less ambitious than her best work but that I found remarkably soothing and even comforting. There are men out there fighting to keep this world from falling apart, and “Becoming Cousteau” is a reminder of how people can use passion to make change. We could use more men like Jacques Cousteau.
The world-famous explorer is chronicled in a film that’s made up entirely of archival footage—always a choice that I admire. We don’t need to see talking heads. We hear from a few of them in archival audio and modern sound bites about the life of Cousteau, which is captured in ways that haven’t really been seen before. For one, I never appreciated the technological advancements and courage of Cousteau’s work. Deep-sea diving wasn’t what it is today when he started exploring the deep. The first person to try on an aqualung on a test day with Cousteau died. He was taking serious risks.
And he wasn’t just an explorer or a scientist, he was a filmmaker. Cousteau understood the power of the image, saying that he wanted to be the “John Ford or John Huston of the ocean.” I was having a very stressful, emotional day when I watched “Becoming Cousteau,” and I found it calming. Maybe it was the commitment of its subject and its filmmaker, but it was probably also something of what Cousteau saw in the deep: a gorgeous escape from the problems of the earth.
Jacques would eventually come around from just seeing the beauty of the oceans to realizing that conveying that beauty could help save them. He has an incredible line about how passion can impact change: “You’ll only protect what you love.” He taught people to love the planet. Anything that can remind us of that love in 2021 is valuable.