Entertainment

'The Truffle Hunters' Is a Fascinating Look Into the World's Most Secretive Profession

They're good truffle-hunting dogs!

Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics
Sony Pictures Classics

Even when times are normal and we don’t spend days and days cooped up in our own homes, it’s easy for us to wish we lived amid, say, the lush forests of Italy, populated by old-growth trees, picturesque little houses, and kind, pastoral villagers. The Truffle Hunters, the immersive new documentary available in select theaters from directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, functions both as a breathtaking, painterly look into such a place, and a stunning portrait of a dying art.

The stars of The Truffle Hunters can be separated into three categories: the humans, the dogs, and the truffles themselves. The truffles, fruiting bodies of a subterranean type of fungus, are tough to find under the best of circumstances, and the specific kind of truffle featured in the movie is the Alba white truffle, increasingly rare and always in high demand. At first glance, you wouldn’t think a movie like this would be as ambitious an undertaking as a superhero blockbuster or a Borat movie, but in order to film their documentary, Dweck and Kershaw had to work to earn the trust of the men who dig up these small, sort of ugly, staggeringly expensive fungi.

The world of truffle hunting is insular and by nature competitive and full of suspicion, foragers constantly battling over territory in confrontations that can sometimes turn violent. Less-honest hunters will forage in secret on land that’s not theirs, stealing the income from the more established old guard, and respected buyers will deal under the table, taking any opportunity they can find to turn a larger profit. The little mushrooms sell for hundreds, even thousands of dollars, and yet those who make a living finding them live in tiny towns, in simple houses, caring for their few friends in the business, their families, and their dogs.

Oh, the dogs! There is no “breed” of truffle dog, only dogs that fit certain requirements: smart enough to be trained, a desire to work, and a powerful and selective sense of smell. However they did it, truffles evolved to smell tasty, even from a foot underneath the earth, signalling to the animals savvy enough to find them that they are delicious to eat, spreading their spores to other spots on the ground every time they’re dug up. The documentary follows a few different dogs, owned by a few different elderly truffle hunting experts, showcasing, in a storybook manner, the complex and loving relationship between the two.

Most of The Truffle Hunters is spent tramping through the woods, climbing over mossy deadfalls and through briar patches as the dogs, sometimes lanky, sometimes small, always delightfully fluffy, sprint on ahead, following webs of scent trails our meagre human noses couldn’t hope to pick up. At times, we meet back up with them in their homes, where one man shares conversations at the breakfast table with his beloved Birba, while another sneaks out of the house to forage at night despite his wife’s protestations, cradling little spotted Titina. The dogs are by turns pets, family members, and coworkers. (Call Me By Your Name and Suspiria director Luca Guadagnino, owner of a truffle dog, is an executive producer.)

Apart from all of this, the film is simply beautiful to look at, with lengthy, leisurely takes of a single portion or forest or spot on a hill, watching and waiting for a man and his truffle dog to walk past. The directors used the landscapes and lighting of Italian master painters as inspiration, waiting hours for just the right angle of sunlight just to get one simple shot. Other portions of the movie are enhanced with thrilling, dizzying “dog-vision” scenes, for which they attached small cameras to the dogs before they were set loose, filming light-speed rushes through the underbrush that smear rich greens and browns and gold across the screen. It’s a beautiful movie, but it also feels like a love poem to something the world is in danger of losing, the fires and clangs of industry and capitalism having no place in the small yet teeming world of this mysterious profession. Like its namesake little fungus, a movie like this is a rare, valuable treat.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Why the Shocking Twist in 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' Is So Killer

The A24 horror-comedy has a lot to say about how logged on we are today.

A24
A24
A24

This story contains spoilers about the ending of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.Even if you’ve tried to game the TikTok algorithm to feed you videos from #fashiontok, #foodtok, or whatever else you might be interested in, when you open the app, you tend to be inundated with a whole lot of discourse. In many ways, it’s incredible how attuned young people are in knowing who they are and how comfortable they are having frank conversations. But in other ways, sometimes it can feel like quick-hit platforms have a tendency to deduce real issues or strip things of their meanings-whether that’s teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental illness, or people labelling musicians as “female or male manipulator artists” without ever listening to their music.

A24’s latest horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies (out now in theatres) about a group of 20-somethings partying during a hurricane that turns into a hunt for a killer is like a movie downloaded from the current millennial-Gen-Z cusp moment of the internet we’re in. When the trailer for the movie directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a story from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, dropped earlier this year, it made that very clear. In just over a minute and a half, we hear the cast of cool girl breakouts yelling, “You’re always gaslighting me,” “you fucking trigger me,” “you’re so toxic,” and “you’re silencing me.” Even the movie’s tagline is, “This is not a safe space.”

Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much logged onto millennial/Gen Z social media-isms throughout, from lines hilariously pieced together by the Twitter zeitgeist to scenes featuring TikTok dances. The movie operates on a delectable kind of slasher-movie paranoia, making the audience just as unsure as the slumber party gone wrong with who is killing them off left and right. But given how much of a playful satire it is of contemporary youth culture, it ends up being a twist that feels all but inevitable, and couldn’t be more razor-blade sharp.

A24
A24
A24

Once the torrential downpour stops and the sun comes up, it seems as if Maria Bakalova‘s Bee is about to be our Bodies Bodies Bodies final girl, now that she’s realized how much her relationship with Sophia (Amandla Stenberg) is based on lies. As a test to see how easily Sophie can lie-and therefore deny killing all of her friends from midnight until dawn-Bee asks her if she cheated on her with Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan. It’s a fact that Bee already knows to be true, considering she came across a pair of panties in Sophie’s car that matched a bra she noticed in Jordan’s bag. When Sophie denies it, Bee tries to take her phone (which Jordan admitted would have texts about their recent hook-up on it), and the two start fighting outside in the remnants of the storm. Bee eventually pulls a phone out of the mud, and it looks like the WiFi and cell phone service that was gone all night is finally back. Thinking she’ll pull up the evidence she needs-and confirmation to get the hell out of there-she’s surprised when Sophie says, “That’s not my phone,” and even more surprised to see what’s on it.

It turns out that it belongs to David, Pete Davidson’s coked-out rich kid character whose parents’ house they’re partying at and was the first one to die in the movie. They know it’s David’s phone because it opens to a TikTok, soundtracked by the lockdown classic TikTok song “Bored In The House” by Curtis Roach and Tyga, that shows him waving around his dad’s decorative but very real sword (!) to try to open a champagne bottle (!), idiotically waving it towards himself, only to slice right into his own neck. As it turns out, nobody killed David-not an intruder, not Jordan, not Sophie, not Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) she knew nothing about (except for the fact that he was a Libra moon), and not their friend Max (Conner O’Malley) who left early the night before. David accidentally killed himself, and hysteria is what killed everybody else. You could say that it’s almost predictable that it turns out to be a clout-chasing TikTok that led to the movie’s murderous spiral of events. Although, that would undercut what Reijn and DeLappe are trying to say with the darkly funny movie with an especially dark, funny twist. Like TikTok or Twitter, the movie is a constant feed of discourse, buzzwords, and blanket statements that snarkily laugh at and with its ensemble. There are many moments in particular that drive this home-like Alice trying to be sympathetic in talking about mental health, only to make the conversation about her, and David ridiculing his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) for getting all of her thoughts from Twitter after she says he “gaslights” her. On top of that, David picks up the sword and tries to go viral to begin with because his masculinity felt threatened by Greg, who did the trick in the first place.

While it would be downright terrifying if a party with people who are supposedly your best friends turned into a slasher flick, in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the horror isn’t a vengeful or heartless killer. Everybody may become a psychopath of sorts when they feel physically threatened or legitimately toxic name-calling and backstabbing ensues, but Bodies Bodies Bodies and its devilish twist is about the humour and horror in the devoid way we can use social media today more than anything else. Like Sophie and Bee’s terrified realization at the end, it makes you want to log off for awhile… right after you post a 100K-worthy tweet about it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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