The Truffle Hunters review: Humour laced with darkness in a fungi-filled documentary

·2-min read
 (Sony Pictures Classics)
(Sony Pictures Classics)

This hilarious and provocative documentary focuses on a group of gifted old men. Sergio, Carlo, Aurelio and Angelo are legends in Piedmont because they know where to find Alba truffles. The fist-shaped fungi are much prized in fancy-pants restaurants and sell for vast sums. Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (with the help of executive producer, Luca ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Guadagnino) want to point out the contradictions of a pursuit that in many ways seems closer to a sport or religion than a job. The mood is light. That doesn’t mean things don’t get dark.

Truffles are sniffed out by dogs and younger hunters, who, desperate to hobble the competition, have started to leave strychnine-laced meat in the forest. Silver-tongued middle-men also take a lot, whilst paying little, and climate change is wrecking the soil.

It’s easy to imagine Hollywood re-shaping the material as fiction. Bill Murray, sporting a wet-perm, would be perfect as Sergio (who likes to pound the drums, especially when feeling emotional). Owen Wilson should definitely be cast as cheeky, little-boy-lost, Carlo, and Jonathan Pryce is the obvious choice for steely, saintly Aurelio. As for who should play horny, long-haired poet, Angelo, if anyone but Joaquin Phoenix is offered the part I will spit.

True, as a vision of how humans can work hand-in-hand with nature, this isn’t as awesome as Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland. The humour is a bit too contrived, especially towards the end. Still, Sergio and the gang are endlessly intriguing and the tenderness they display towards their dogs (who double as children and friends) is truly something. Taste paradise, poison a pooch? The hunters’ despair, vis a vis the greed that truffle-love inspires, will stay with you long after the credits roll.

In cinemas from today. 84 mins, 12A

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