A black-and-white slice of culty quasihorror fantasy more akin to “Eraserhead” than recent tongue-in-cheek scare pics, Quebecois “Truffe” provides a brisk walk on the odd side for adventuresome genre fans. Enigmatic tale of a near-future in which truffle-hunting somehow abets a nefarious corporation’s mind-control plan mixes elements of kitsch, queasiness and dystopian nightmare. It’s duly diverting, if a bit slim at barely under an hour (discounting credits). French-language pic has been expanding on Quebec screens since opening in limited release on Aug. 22; exposure elsewhere will be primarily via DVD.
Global warming has had the curious effect of turning the soil in one working-class Montreal neighborhood into a gold mine for highly in-demand truffles. Charles (Roy Dupuis) is the delicacy’s champion sniffer-outer, a talent that brings him to the attention of a sinister company supposedly dealing in fur. But led by an imperious Michele Richard, it has another, murkier agenda involving fur wraps that are in fact nasty, fanged, strangling thingies resembling hairy sock puppets.
Hired by the company, Charles, his hapless parents (an amusing Pierre Lebeau and Danielle Proulx) and fellow workers soon show signs of body-snatched detachment. It’s up to his diner-hostess wife Alice (Celine Bonnier) to turn action heroine and halt this alien takeover.
Sophomore feature (following 2002’s little-seen “The Marsh”) for writer-director Kim Nguyen has a firm grip on its own slippery tone, which juggles the eerie and the arch; ditto the nicely controlled perfs.
Underlined by Jerome Boiteau’s ominous sound design, “Truffe” is striking enough visually to overcome the sly script’s slightly undernourished aftertaste, with ace contributions from production designer Mario Hervieux and lenser Nicolas Bolduc. Coldly minimalist corporate HQ, atmospheric underground truffle mines and 1950s-flavored diner/apartment settings all testify to the pic’s imagination within modest production means. Among the memorably surreal sights is a squadron of dazed workmen hauling refrigerators up city streets on their backs, and the inchworm-like march of fur-worms across an office floor.