Wednesday, October 14, 2020

My Octopus Teacher

Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed’s My Octopus Teacher deals with a beloved mollusk that diners in Italian restaurants often confuse with calamari.The movie seeks to disabuse viewers of the notion they might have had that octopuses are unlikely pets. Craig Foster who produced the film is also the star along with the putative octopus and his son, who plays a cameo. No doubt it’s amazing to see an octopus using its 200 suction cups to grasp onto its new friend, though one does wonder if the film is not being a bit pollyannish. Does the octopus see Foster as a friend or potential meal? Indeed, some parts of the film seem contrived. Foster uses only a snorkel to make his dives, yet the octopus is shown in long periods of repose and the romanticizing of the creature’s “invertebrate intelligence” brings to mind a famous Twilight Zone, “To Serve Man,” in which the motives behind an alien creatures seeming friendliness are revealed by a cook book entitled To Serve Man. Foster is shocked and saddened when one of the octopus's tentacles are bitten off by a pyjama shark and he’s amazed to see natural selection at work as his friend uses ingenious ploys in its struggle to survive. In his next film Foster should consider taking his snorkel to the Galapagos where he can trace his mentor’s footsteps.

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