Tag Archives: Pig


A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD

This 2007 film begins in pre-World War II Britain. It has two foci of action. One is Briony Tallis,  who bookends the film, appearing first as a thirteen-year-old, precociously involved in writing a  play, and again, three or four decades later, as an established writer. She is being interviewed  about her latest book, an autobiography, which she characterizes as being her last book. She  explains the characterization by confessing that her writing ability is being eroded by a series of  small, untreatable strokes.

The second focus of action is a struggle by two lovers to reunite. Briony’s older sister, Celia,  some five years older, and Robbie, the son of the Tallis’ housekeeper, are star-crossed lovers.  Their relationship is ruptured when Robbie is falsely accused of sexually molesting Lola  Quincey, a fifteen-year-old cousin visiting the Tallis sisters. The accusation is based on Briony’s  insistence that she was an eye-witness of Robbie’s attack on Lola, and her persuading Lola,  confused and uncertain, to agree with her.

Briony’s actions have complex determinants. She has misinterpreted some of her earlier  observations of Robbie and Celia at poolside as rough sex. She has read—and delivered— a  crudely sexual note from Robbie to Celia, mistakenly substituted by him for a more proper  apology for his pool-side behavior. She has caught the couple in flagrante delicto after their  relationship has become explicitly passionate. And, perhaps centrally, Briony has a crush on  Robbie that is unreciprocated. And finally, there are unsubtle reverberations of upstairs/downstairs” in the rush to judgment about Robbie.

The upshot is that Robbie is sent to prison for a term that is commuted when, abandoning his  college ambitions, he joins the army and is swept up into the battles that eventuate in the  British evacuation at Dunkirk.

We follow Robbie as he slogs through graphic battlefield horrors  and struggles to get back  home, and Celia and Briony as they pursue separate careers as army  nurses.Celia, unable to  forgive her sister for her role in Robbie’s condemnation, is waiting, hope against hope, for his  return from the war; Briony, finally coming to realize that she has wrongfully accused her  sister’s lover, is searching for a means of atonement.

The actors’ performances are compelling. The grit and drama of the battlefield gripping. The  graphic evocation of the drama of Dunkirk deeply moving. The device of following Briony and  her struggles with guilt from the frailties of youth to those of an adulthood crumbling into brain  disorder is remarkable.

There Is a surprising twist in the resolution of the swirling complexities around Briony’s quest  for atonement that I will not spoil by detailing. You can find the film on Amazon, Apple + and  other streaming sites. It is worth watching.


A Review

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.