The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus
Irreverent foray into the Octopus who successfully predicted the results of the 2010 World Cup
Alexandre O. Philippe, the director of the brilliant Star Wars fan culture study The People Vs George Lucas, returns with another buoyant and irreverent foray into the weirder verges of pop culture. Back in the summer of 2010, World Cup fever settled upon an octopus in a marine centre in Germany who appeared to have the power of foresight.
Presented with successive pairs of boxes bearing both tasty mussels and the flags of the competing nations, Paul claimed his snacks with care, and picked eight winners in a row. What was going on? Scam? Wearisome, wacky publicity stunt? Statistical anomaly? Actual supernatural cephalod capacities?
Approaching Paul, his handlers and his various fans and foes with a tongue-in-cheek warmth that never quite sours into mockery, this film gives us lovably loopy animal communicators (to whom Paul relates his life story, as well as passing on resonant messages to humanity, such as ‘Seek to forgive’), bookies, publicity agents, as well as Paul’s endearingly nerdy handlers, whose affection for the animal and mild dismay at his sudden and extraordinary fame is touching to observe.
If you’re thinking ‘This all sounds very silly’, then make no mistake: much of it is. There’s an inevitable hint of Eurotrash wackiness with which not everyone will want to engage. But there’s lots here (not least in frequent animated sections) to charm, tickle and intrigue – plus a lot of surprising and enriching information about octopi, probability and the history of animal oracles.
Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Fri 22 & Sat 23 Jun.