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Pig

****
2021

‘…that rare sense of revelation without contrivance or artifice makes this an exemplary movie…’

Kicking off the 2021 Edinburgh International Film Festival, Michael Sarnoski’s debut feature is a low-key, remarkably refined debut feature. The deceptively simple title suggests something blunter; yes, it’s the story of a truffle-hunter searching for his lost pig, and that sounds straightforward enough. But this quest works itself out in surprising ways, and it’s not just the characters who find that they’ve misjudged the situation, but the audience, and that rare sense of revelation without contrivance or artifice makes this an exemplary movie.

Rob (Nicolas Cage) has retracted into himself; once a revered chef in Portland haute cuisine circles, he now lives out in the sticks with only a pig for company. Rob has turned his back on the business end of the world, largely due to a tragedy that isn’t initially specified, and his only real contact is with Amir (Alex Wolff), who turns up in his yellow sports-car to take away the fruits of Rob’s labours. The theft of Rob’s pig changes everything, and Rob and Amir set out on a journey to find out what has happened to the animal, uncovering many of Rob’s secrets along the way…

Pig builds up to an ending that can hardly be described as feel-good, and yet the transformative quest undertaken by Rob in search of his pig is satisfying and redemptive. One striking scene sees Rob persuade Amir to get a table at a posh restaurant (aptly named Eurydice) to quiz the chef; Rob’s disgust at the ‘deconstructed scallops’ served up is tangible, and yet the way he accosts the chef with his own previous words and intentions is surprising. We, the audience, can’t help but judge Rob from his first, downtrodden appearance, but as Pig continues towards a realistic ending, it’s increasingly clear that we’ve got Rob all wrong…

A high-profile performer from the Hereditary movie, as well as the Jumanji sequel, Alex Wolff does some sterling work here in making Amir something more than a sidekick, but the draw here is Cage, who brings something magnetic and unique to the role of Rob Feld. Nursing open wounds in every sense, Rob is deeply unimpressed by the world around him, a world he forsook by choice, and now finds himself in abrupt conflict with. An actor who has made many minimally written characters sing with a little bit of humour, Cage has made enough films to know when he’s got the chance to really get the bit between his teeth, and his magnetic portrait of a sensitive man navigating a hopelessly insensitive world makes Pig utterly essential viewing, and one of Cage’s best performances to date.

Thanks to Altitude and Edinburgh International Film Festival for access to this title.

Pig is screening in UK cinemas from August 18th 2021, watch at home from Aug 23rd.

 

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      • Fr some reason I can’t comment on your blog right now.
        I tried posting this but it won’t go thru:
        Every Sunday in Seattle I would go to my friend Joan’s house. We would watch the Highlander TV series. Of course I’d love a new movie. I’d be over the moon happy!

  1. I’m a cage, er captive fan of this man. Great review without giving away vital heartbeats in the movie! U mention the brief title. My alt title would be something like ‘not Schroeder’s Cat but…’ laid bare by Rob saying, “If I never came looking for her, in my head, she’d still be alive.” The scenery was sad, the subject matter deep and brief. Adored the GR tragedy refs. Well done’s all around.

    • That line has haunted me since seeing this film, but I cut it from my review and interview because I felt it gave too much away. It’s reflected in Amir saying his mother was dead, then visiting her in a home. Is it better not to know, or not to deal with something? It’s an adult, moving film; as the director told me on a zoom, it’s like finding an unexpected friend.

    • Is the correct answer. Classical allusions welcome amongst the cognoscenti like ourselves.

  2. The best film of the year. I had to write about that one immediately after seeing it. 😀 I agree – best Cage’s performance to date. Quite a layered story, leaving you without that needed relief in the end, combined with long shots, suggestive framing (doors and windows) and the lack of soundtrack when needed. I hope the Academy won’t miss that one, but I’m sceptical

      • Bullseye! It’s really a character study. I do have to admit, I had the same expectations. Seeing Jiu Jitsu (2020) recently didn’t help. :)) As if we were trained by all those direct-to-video films to expect some crazy Steven Seagalish vengeance trip. But there isn’t one, because life doesn’t work that way. I think that’s actually the strength of this film, even though people won’t give it a chance mostly because it stars Cage.

        I was looking at various Facebook groups, both movie fans and Nic Cage fans, and there were mixed feelings. Some thought it was boring, and some expected an action film, mostly because of the trailer that was released months ago. As if the whole genre was typecast.

        If this starred someone else, it would be an instant hit. Or if it was written decades ago. Now, the film had to fight against prejudice first. And the current overall feeling of lack of concentration for younger generations doesn’t help. The new audience wouldn’t get Tarkovsky, Ozu, Bergman or Antonioni. I mean, I do love modern films, I can’t wait for the new Dune (especially, being a Jodorowsky fan :D), but gems like this are always more valuable to me.

        • I ran into Jodorowsky once, and I remembered Dan O’Bannon saying he saw lightning bolts emerging from his eyes!

          Oddly, I think this film might have a genuine appeal to the mass of the population who know Cage, and want to see him in something good. I noted that someone had posted the Euridyce scene on youtube; I’d love to see it, but could today’s audiences get off on nothing more than good writing, dialogue and acting? If nothing else, the Wick-ness gets this movie to a bigger audience, and yes, that’ll cause a backlash, but the film remains good.

          • Jodorowsky with lightning bolts 😀 😀 😀 I love his craziness, like Lynch on steroids. Although, in the recent years, he’s been more into tarot. Like Lynch into transcendental meditation. What a weird and amazing guy.

            I missed the fact that the restaurant was named Eurydice! Jeez, it’s even more layered than I thought. I mean, it’s obvious, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice mirror’s Robin’s story of lost love and lost career, but also serves as a way to pinpoint the chef’s lost passion (to open a pub), and just sticking to the “underground” of fine dining. And the restaurant that made Robin famous was Hestia, again the goddess of hearth and domestic life, and he has lost both the restaurant and that kind of life.

            Oh god, I need to rewatch it.

            • It’s all there! And the scene with Amir’s mom, after he said she was dead. ‘If I’d never looked for her, she’d still be alive in my mind’ Rich stuff!

              • Now I feel like “well dddduh!” after you’ve already completed some exam. 😀 That’s spot on, good catch! Basically, the whole film can be seen like a Orpheus quest, he decides to go into the city to retrieve his pig. He’s not going to get it because he needs it to forage truffles, he loves her, as he pinpoints it in that one scene. The city is basically Tartarus, an unknown realm for a social outcast like him. And as in the original myth, the story is a tragic one.

                But I somehow don’t see it as a tragic story, just as a way of growing as a person, which might involve tragedies, but also inner peace with yourself.

                However, three layers of Orpheus mythology are simply amazing. I feel that one can write papers and papers about the film. Or at least replicate that mushroom tart. <3

  3. Pig didn’t comply and now it is a tableful of bacon….
    At least Robocop won’t go hungry on his stakeouts.

    And good job IRNA-67, your deletion and replication of Dix is flawless. Now kill ED-209 and bring home the bacon!

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