Connect with us


The Fruit Hunters | Review

Finding The Forbidden: Chang Indulges In Produce

The Fruit Hunters Yung Chang PosterIt seems that for some, the appetite for rare and exotic fruits extends far beyond mere curious fascination and well on into the realm of impassioned obsession. They’re appreciative of harvest heritage and community farming, craving unique local flavors home grown in the untapped wilderness or bought and sold via small provincial marketplaces. Exploring lighter, sweeter fare than his previous China focused efforts, Up The Yangtze and China Heavyweight, director Yung Chang follows the winding path to the gardens of Eden in his tangy exposé, The Fruit Hunters.

Following the pursuits of horticulturalists, pomologists, and backyard enthusiasts as they search for white fleshed mangoes and forgotten fruits preserved within Renaissance paintings, we travel the globe learning of fruits rarely tasted in the western world. As it turns out, actor Bill Pullman (of Independence Day and Lost Highway fame) is also a fruit fanatic. Out in the Hollywood hills where he lives and farms is own personal hillside garden, we see him hosting neighborhood gatherings, trying to gain support of a community owned orchard. Long before he made a name for himself on the big screen, Pullman was a teenage kid growing up basically alone in the backwoods of upstate New York. Those self sufficient summers left a lasting impression, and now, though lacking the sense of scent, the quest for fruit is not only a delectable indulgence, but also a method of gainful gratification that circumvents the big industry choke hold held by produce giants like Chiquita or Dole.

Light as the topic may seem, Chang’s continued interest in the cultural disconnect between individuals and industry rises to the surface as he questions the globalization of few select fruits and observes the fiscally focused politics destroy good intentioned communal farming projects before they ever take root. But while the film carries Chang’s thematic DNA, it remains a drastic departure in style and structure for the docu director. Dabbling in divisive reenactments that give historical context to the cultural importance of fruits, he extends his visual flair while causing tonal turmoil. You may not know that one’s obsession with the translucent flesh of the lychee has caused an entire empire to fall, but the seriousness of such an event is played with such costumed frivolity that the sequence feels a last minute addition that forcefully bridges current obsessions with the lineage of legends. Balanced by Chang’s gracefully concerned voiceover that leads us along, not all of these historical digressions are as wonky as the aforementioned, but none of them seem completely at home in the film.

While occasionally topsy-turvy in its storytelling, The Fruit Hunters is first and foremost a love letter to carnal produce. First time cinematographer Mark Ó’Fearghail shoots sensually in ultra intimate close-ups, conveying the visual beauty of exotic fruit while causing vivid visual associations to sex organs. The forbidden history of fruit is no secret, from the apple that tainted Eve to the pomegranate that bound Proserpina, they’ve always been an erotic symbol of indulgence that humans have never been able to abstain from. Chang’s subjects are no different, continuously infatuated by the touch, smell and taste of fruit, but responsibly conscious of its natural fragility. Informing while invoking curious salivation, Chang’s vibrantly photographed doc may inspire open minded tasting and a green thumb or two, but little else.

Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top