They appear suddenly on the lawn after two weeks of rain. The dog used to bite them, and then throw them up in the house.

Mushrooms look like little umbrellas, and when I was a little boy, the nuns told me that fairies lived under them when it rained. And after seeing this gorgeous, magical film, I’m tempted to believe it.

Mycologists, those men and women who study this stuff, say that there are 10,000 types of mushrooms, including the ones you see in the market in little green boxes. Some say millions more.

Everything I thought I knew about mushrooms dramatically changed while watching cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s new documentary “Fantastic Fungi,” narrated in part by actress — OMG — Brie Larson, of all people.

“Fungi” is largely the creation of Schwartzberg, an award winning producer, director filmmaker who has created movie magic for films and television for three decades.

I first heard of him when I saw “Wings of Life,” a feature for Disneynature, narrated by Meryl Streep.

You’ve seen his work; you just didn’t know it.

Louie dipped his shamanistic, other-worldly fingers into the work of Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Ridley Scott, in “Men in Black” and “The Bourne Identity.”

His “Fungi” is an enchanting, lovely, voyage to the underworld that dwells deep under our great forests, in the arctic and even in the oil spills of the ocean.

Believe me, I approached this job with hesitation. A movie about mushrooms? Please.

Ten minutes in, I sat up straight in my seat and stopped munching popcorn. I was no stranger to the use of time-lapse cinematography, but I’m happy to note that like telephones and politics, TLC has come a long way, and you’re in for a very big surprise. Louie uses color that you can taste, feel and drink.

Along with Larson’s soft tones, “Fungi’s” journey also is narrated by mycologist Paul Stamets, a stunning look- and sound-alike of actor Mandy Patinkin. Wearing a hat that’s made out of different ‘shrooms, he takes us for long walks in the woods, and suddenly, with the wave of his stick, throws us into the past, where we walk, with early man who savored the first bites of ‘shrooms that probably electrified their brains and may have given birth to thought and speech.

With the haunting, spiritual music of Adam Peters, Stamets guides us through thousands of years of the mushroom in color and shapes Walt Disney never dreamed of, mushrooms drilling up from the earth through dead wood and the corpses of animals and rock-hard asphalt.

Trying to describe what I saw and heard, to entice you into this spiritual world beneath our feet, is impossible. You have to see this for yourself on the big screen. You’ll never stick your fork into a Cremini or Shiitake again without imagining a tiny squeal.

J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.


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