The Truffle Hunters (M) - 84 minutes
A reverential portrait of a group of ageing super sleuths and their beloved dogs, The Truffle Hunters is delightfully quirky.
All the hunters showcased are of a certain age.
They have a devotion to what they do (or, in one case, have done).
They scour the forests of northern Italy in search of the highly prized white Alba truffle.
The fungi can’t be cultivated or found by modern methods.
The men – with a wicked sense of humour – love the thrill of the hunt, being at one with nature and greatly appreciate how their faithful hounds manage to sniff out the buried delicacies.
Some of these truffle warriors are in their eighties, others their seventies.
The local priest blesses one (and his dog) for what he does and has been doing for so many decades.
His wife implores him to give up the hunt, but he won’t.
We witness truffle transactions, the “sniff test” that accompanies valuations and frustration at the way things are versus the way they used to be.
But wait, there’s more.
The “hard word” is put onto an old timer to reveal the source of his truffles before he passes on, while another loves his drum kit almost as much as his truffle hunting.
And then an auction house displays its precious lot – for which the bidding is fierce – on a regal red cushion atop a silver cake stand, each side of which are two bottles of red wine.
The Truffle Hunters is a celebration of age-old tradition and the characters that still make it so today.
Of course, modernity has stepped in – some of it positive, but not all. The greed is unbecoming.
We even get to appreciate truffle hunting from a dog’s perspective, as a camera is fitted onto one of the working animals.
The only thing missing is the aroma. Pity, in this case, that smell-o-vision never took off.
Visually, there is a lot to like, as the natural terrain is beautiful.
The full picture unfolds in a series of interconnected scenes.
There is no narrator, simply slice of life conversation from those in the front line, which gives The Truffle Hunters an endearing authenticity.
Little appears staged.
The audience is made to feel like we are flies on a wall listening in and watching on.
I can’t say I have seen too many documentaries like it.
I am all the better for gaining the insight The Truffle Hunters gave me.
Rated M, it scores a 7½ out of 10.