The Truffle Hunters
Piero Botto, Sergio Cauda, Maria Cicciu
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…a curious doco, though possibly not in the way its makers intended.
This documentary starts off rather tediously, but becomes a little more interesting as it goes on. The titular hunters are a bunch of men in Piedmont (Italy), all of whom are in their seventies or eighties and utterly devoted and dedicated to what they do. Sometimes, their enthusiasm for this incredibly expensive (4,500 Euros per kilo ), rare and hard-to-find delicacy seems positively Pythonesque – without actually being funny – but their joie-de-vivre has its charm. This is particularly apparent when contrasted with the pomposity of some truffle experts at the more lucrative end of the truffle business, who have an air of self-regard to rival any wine snob. And the actual process of finding the truffles is amazing, what with the dogs’ uncanny ability to know where to dig and sniff them out.
The Truffle Hunters is a curious doco, though possibly not in the way its makers intended. With its ‘arty’ lighting and occasionally sped-up camerawork, it’s often distractingly mannered to a degree which undermines the ‘cinema verite’ style. At times, it looks staged. The truffle hunters are more old-fashioned than (as we’re led to expect) eccentric. That said, they do have a common tendency to converse endlessly with their beloved dogs, and they’re a largely likeable bunch with whom we side wholeheartedly against their soulless and rapacious younger competitors. (Some of whom resort to such bastardry as poisoning those poor dogs; the distress of one man at the death of his canine friend is distressing to see.) As an object lesson in the way slick modernity is driving out traditionalism and individuality, the doco just about passes muster.