EIFF 2012: The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (Alexandre O. Philippe, 2012)

June 22, 2012

This was written for The Skinny, but below the link is a slightly expanded version of my review for them.

Review for The Skinny

The director of The People vs. George Lucas returns with a light-hearted documentary about another pop culture phenomenon, one who may have received even more death threats from displeased enthusiasts. With the opening credits trading “a film by” for “a fairy tale by”, writer-director Alexandre O. Philippe’s tongue is firmly in cheek in his profile of the supposedly psychic cephalopod that had a 100% success rate in predicting 2010 World Cup results, leading to a sudden rise to fame. We also get some exploration of the nature of viral communication, and the absurd cultures surrounding animal celebrity.

Philippe interviews people involved with the octopus’ hype machine, famous fans (including members of the victorious Spanish team), various psychics and statisticians, and less enthusiastic contributors like reps from bookmakers. Paul’s most famous enemy, Diego Maradona, appears to have been unavailable for questioning, though the film’s biggest problem is that it’s somewhat overcrowded with talking heads. Many prove superfluous through reciting some of the same points over and over again. Additionally, much of the vital information in the first half is rushed through to get to Paul’s post-predictions celebrity and his legacy. Still, there’s much humour here, with enjoyable animation and puppetry incorporated in an entertaining look at some of the more eccentric attributes of pop culture and human nature; though what actually spurred having him predict results is a rather glaring narrative omission.

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