MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The Truffle Hunters - In Theaters
Directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw
Documentary in Italian and English, with subtitles
You just know that the pandemic has jammed up the movie pipeline when this week’s review is a documentary about hunting for truffles in Piedmont, Italy – and only playing in theaters. But – as they say – anyone who spends their nights hunting for truffles is going to be a fun guy.
The Truffle Hunters may not be to everyone’s taste, but this leisurely-paced but relatively short film takes its time to charm and surprise the viewer. The film opens with the widescreen vista of a verdant forest. In the midst of this lush greenery (which resembles an Impressionist-era painting) we are able to pick out the small shapes of dogs and hunters working their way down a steep slope to seek the rare and high-priced fungus known as the Alba truffle. Dogs are crucial to this process, since this truffle is located underground and must be sniffed out.
The hunters are all older Italian men in their 70s and 80s. and seem not only dedicated to their singular vocation but also secretive about their favorite hunting spots, preferring to go out in the dead of night for most of their forays. The film also introduces us to some of the people who serve as go-betweens to get the product to the highest bidder. Not surprisingly, the marketplace does not seem to reward these men for their efforts; no one becomes rich hunting for truffles.
The most amusing and memorable scenes in this movie are the moments that depict the love between hunter and dog. They eat meals together, bathe together, and care for one another. The dogs are so prominent in The Truffle Hunters they merit a mention in the closing credits cast list. If you’ve ever wanted to see the world from a dog’s point-of-view, the filmmakers even have a couple of scenes in which a Go Pro camera is attached to one of the pack and we can race through the forest just a foot or so above the ground.
It’s a slow-paced movie without a plot but still much to recommend it.
This endorsement may not be enough to motivate you to put on a mask, venture back to a movie theater and watch a film about fungus. It’s a trifle, but like a truffle, if you spend time in a cold dark room with it, it will slowly grow on you.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A lovely little film about the quirky and colorful world of truffle hunting.
One pitchfork: Occasional subtitled cuss words; implied subterfuge; brutal offscreen competition.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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