by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD
This is a film you should see. Don’t be put off by its eponymous title or by its starring Nicholas Cage, with his predilection for operatic excess and personal foibles. I am not going to say much about the movie’s content, because it is a film to experience directly and to savor. You can find it on Amazon Prime.
It was directed by Michael Sarnoski, his first feature film. Along with Vanessa Block, he also co-wrote the script. The movie is organized into three sections: Rustic Mushroom Tart; Mom’s French Toast & Deconstructed Scallops; A Bird, a Bottle, a Salted Baguette.
So now you know that cuisine plays a role. Cage, in the role of Rob Feld, is a one-time celebrity chef in Portland. After his wife’s death Feld has dropped out of the hustle, into a ten-year hiatus as a recluse deep in the forest. The hiatus is interrupted by a home invasion that includes a beating for Feld and the kidnapping of the ex-chef’s truffle hunting pet pig. What ensues is an account of Feld’s determined attempt to recover his pig.
I recognize that my formulation is likely to evoke a snicker. Accept my assurance that the filmic experience will not evoke a shred of amusement or of snark. It is an account of loss and love, one that approaches C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. You may recall that, because of its raw and personal nature, Lewis intended his account to be published under a pseudonym, an intention that was derailed by a proofreader’s recognizing the author’s corrections to the proof.
Pig will surprise you over and over, taking turns that avoid bathos and defy expectations. As a work of fiction, the movie avoids Lewis’s concerns about publicity and becomes pure art. The film has a mythic feel, with overtones of concerns about personal authenticity and a critique of “civilization.” One of its tropes is the utilization of “Euridice” as the name of an upscale restaurant that Feld visits in his quest to recover Pig. In Greek mythology, of course, Euridice is the beloved wife of Orpheus. When she dies, the musician goes on a quest to Hades to recover her. Clearly Sarnoski’s cue for what we should be looking for in this opus and of its potential meaning.
Cage’s performance is one for the ages. I found myself thinking that, given some of his past stumbles, this role, one for which he will be remembered, would be a remarkable point at which to bow out. The culinary focus of the film brought Charlie Trotter to my mind. Trotter was a celebrity chef in Chicago. He won numerous awards and brought Michelin stars to the city. In 2012, at the height of his fame, Trotter closed his restaurant, announcing his intention to study philosophy. Two years later, at the age of fifty-four, he died.
I doubt that Cage will, or, really, should, retire. And I hope we all get to see much more of that of which Sarnoski has given us a taste.