The Truffle Hunters (2020)
September 22, 2021 4:10 PM - Subscribe

Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years old, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle-which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation.

A handful of men search for rare, expensive and delicious white Alba truffles deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy.

MaryAnn Johanson: The Truffle Hunters is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. It is delightful in its simplicity, and also profound in its depth and wisdom. It is a gorgeous, empathetic portrait of its charming subjects. It is beautiful to look at, with painterly cinematography replete with compositions that look like the secret stuff unearthed from the studios of the Old Masters. It is specific — oh-so specific! — and yet universal, too, an ode to following one’s passion and living one’s best life, no matter what anyone else thinks of you. It’s also really, really funny, honing right in on human idiosyncrasies, on human contradictions and hypocrisies.

Deborah Ross: This is directed by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw and, visually, it is magnificent, with every scene framed like a gorgeous painting. Mostly, we’re in the forests, famed for the rare white Alba truffles which can’t be cultivated and are prized by connoisseurs all over the world, somewhat mystifyingly. (I recently bought some truffle-flavoured crisps from a posh deli by mistake and just the smell made me retch. But each to their own.) The main characters, who are all in their eighties, are not named-on-screen, yet you’ll come to recognise who’s who and who has which quirks. Sergio plays rock drums and dotes on his dog, Fiona, lovingly blowdrying her after her bath. Aurelio shares the dinner table with his dog, Birba, and bakes her a birthday cake and frets about what’ll happen to her once he’s gone — he’s 88 — but for now it’s a happy life: ‘We hunt truffle and then I make fondue.’ Angelo, a former womanising circus acrobat — ‘I enchanted them… I walked on stilts, that’s fascinating’ — rails against ‘greed’ and the modern world. Carlos persists on hunting at night with his dog Titina — a Labrador cross, I think — much to his wife’s displeasure. You’re too old, she keeps telling him. ‘I want to hear the owl,’ he protests.

Anne Brodie: A good truffle dog is valued at around 6000 Euros, and poisoning by one’s competition is not unexpected. The relationship between master and dog is something to behold, not only are dogs the source of income, they are beloved family members. Then to auction and fine restaurants where customers enjoy the fruits of an often-harrowing journey vérité-style doc reveals the threat of climate change to the fungi and the ages-old industry in this fascinating journey! The settings are the woods, the hunters’ tiny, impoverished homes and the elite circles that benefit from their life’s passion. The hunters are elderly and there was no sign of apprentices entering the biz. The deep respect for nature runs through the film, lending a Malick-y vibe, and a beautiful soundtrack. Much to ponder.

posted by Carillon (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I saw this a few days ago and loved it. Some of the scenes might be staged or heightened, but they're beautiful, like paintings. Some of the 'story' (such as it is) is a bit disjointed, but its a beautiful slice of life in a beautiful place in the world.

Also the dogs are a bunch of cuties.
posted by Carillon at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2021

I watched this a few weeks ago and -like everyone else - was entranced by the physical beauty of the area and the quality with which it was all filmed. But a couple of days later a few things occurred to me..(1) that it was wonderfully convenient for the camera to be in just the right place for so many critical scenes/conversations, and..(2) because part of the film is the revelation about the price discrepancy between what the truffle hunters are paid for their produce and what the middle-man sells them on to the restaurants/gourmets for - is it still business as normal over there now that this information is out in the open? I'd really like to see (or read) a follow-up on the consequences of the fame wrought by the film.
posted by Wrick at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2021

Note for those who are sensitive to such things that a dog is killed during the film.
posted by praemunire at 7:55 AM on September 23, 2021

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