'The latest precision cameras... the deepest dive yet filmed...' Things change, though. Whereas this was regarded at the time as irreproachable, improving, suitable for classroom bookings, the good Captain Cousteau and his all-male ensemble come across now, in 1998, as an aggravating lot, in their once natty '50s swimwear, amusing themselves by straddling giant turtles and turning them into agonising 'comic relief', or filling the screen with torrents of blood as they slaughter a passing school of sharks ('All sailors hate sharks'). On the other hand, the film-makers' intermittent poetic ambitions are strikingly justified as the cameras explore the wreck of a torpedoed freighter, the commentary becoming an elegy for the lost ship and her crew. The movie has acquired a further dimension as an apprentice work by co-director Louis Malle, though students of his oeuvre will need ingenuity to relate this to anything he made subsequently.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Louis Malle
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