The reason that critics love Michael Sarnoski‘s Pig (Neon, 7.16) is because it’s saying something about the undercurrent of civilized American life in the year 2021. It’s saying two things actually. Thing #1 is “something fundamental and spiritual is missing in our lives.” Thing #2 is “the reason that fundamental thing is missing is because we’ve exiled it…we’ve shown it the door and shouted ‘get out of our house!…you’re not stylish enough!'”
Pig stars the burly, bearded, bruised and overweight Nicolas Cage, and costars Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin. It’s about a former bigtime Portland chef (Cage’s Rob Feld) who’s quit the restaurant business to become a reclusive-hermit truffle forager in the forest. The plot is about Feld’s pet pig being kidnapped and Feld trying to get it back.
It has soul, Pig does. It conveys a reverence for the unseen. (Remember my recent riff about how the most interesting films focus on invisible things? This is one of those films.) Pig is slow and obstinate in some ways, but it believes in the holiness of earth and nature and fine food and wine, and it’s saying that the urban sophisticated realm that most of us live in is…lacking. “Not real” in certain important ways. Lacking in a holy mystical current, lacking in the solemn fundamentals.
But just because Pig is snail-paced and under-written and filmed in shadows and subdued blue-ish light doesn’t mean it’s a great film. I think it’s definitely an interesting and in some ways a valuable film with the eternal things on its mind, etc. But I didn’t “love” it. I was down with it, but the funereal pace bothered me after the 55 or 60-minute mark. I actually decided to take a break at the one-hour mark because I knew it would maintain this same shuffling gait to the end.
I also got tired of looking at Cage’s bloody, beat-up, swollen face. Okay, his performance has a certain ruined integrity. Beaten up by intruders and left with dried sticky blood on his face and forehead throughout 85% of the film. Long gray ratty hair. No hot water, no shower, no change of socks…a sad forest hermit roaming around Portland as he tries to get to the bottom of things.
But Feld is no dummy, and we’re asked to believe that this 50ish truffle whisperer, who spends most of the film speaking to this and that person involved in the Portland restaurant business, wouldn’t clean himself up before making the rounds. He’s clearly not an idiot, and yet Feld is so caught up in the purity thing that he doesn’t clean the fucking dried blood off his face? You know what that is? That’s filmmaker hubris. Sarnoski is saying “Feld is too much of a truffle samurai to even think of cleaning himself up…he’s too angry, too enraged, too possessed to bother about appearances.” That’s movie bullshit.
Friendo: “It definitely took me out of the story that Feld walked into a restaurant with that much blood on his face and there was barely a mention of it. I liked the overall mood of the movie and its message, but it depressed me too much to enjoy or recommend it. Especially to animal lovers.”
HE: “Indeed — not washing the dried blood off his face and forehead struck me as an actorly affectation, or director hubris. However, during that scene at Eurydice the celebrity chef whom Cage fired years earlier asks him “do you need medical attention?”
Friendo: “None of it made sense. He went into this place and then got beaten up for money so the blood didn’t seem to have any symbolic point. Sarnoski was trying to say, I think, ‘life beats you up, be kind to people, find the thing you love, pigs are wonderful animals capable of love.’ Some of that got through.
“I do think it’s funny/ironic that Film Twitter went all in for it when they themselves are so vicious and horrible in temperament.”