Opening in theaters this weekend:
The Truffle Hunters--Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw directed and shot this documentary-ish portrait in the mountain forests of Piedmont, Italy. It chronicles some elderly men who, aided by their dogs, search for and dig up the elusive fungus that commands thousands of Euros per kilo from the upscale restaurant market. The men, some of them in their eighties, are marvelous, peculiar, vital characters, and they bring the movie a warmth and humor that balances the poignant sense that we're seeing a dying culture.
The action shots of these "hunts," sometimes seen from the POV of dog-mounted cameras, are kinetic and exciting; Dweck and Kershaw's static images of the men in their homes, by contrast, are beautifully composed, with Caravaggio-worthy chiaroscuro. The filmmakers are clearly infatuated with these guys and their hearty engagement with the planet, but they also seem aware of the irony that this profession depends on a decadent high-end "foodie" market and the greedy truffle pirates it spawns, who, the hunters complain, are not above poisoning dogs. Nothing in the movie is as strong as the scenes of these hunters bonding with their dogs; as so often in the movies, the dogs steal the show.
Voyagers--A big spaceship is carrying a group of very attractive test tube babies from Earth to a habitable planet almost a century away; their grandchildren are the intended settlers. About the time the gang hits adolescence, they figure out that they're being drugged to keep their hormones in check. They stop taking the drug about the same time they lose their grown-up chaperone (Colin Farrell), with the predictable result: sex and violence. Eventually one wound-up, wild-eyed kid (Fionn Whiehead) forms his own lawless faction; the morose responsible hero and heroine (Tye Sheridan and Lily-Rose Depp) in favor of rules and reason form another, unsurprisingly much smaller.
Written and directed by Neil Burger, this blend of The Blue Lagoon and Lord of the Flies, with agreeable echoes of earnest '70s-era sci-fi spectacles like Silent Running, starts a little slow, but in its second half becomes fairly tense and gripping, with flashes of eroticism. Eventually it starts to take on allegorical resonances too, about how easily reactionary fear-mongering and mob rule can sprout in society, that seem all too relevant these days. The movie's suggestion that the rationalist and democratic impulse is a recessive human trait feels distressingly plausible.