Many initially responded to trailers for Pig—the newest film to star unfairly-maligned legend Nicolas Cage—as if it were some kind of joke. In truth, however, filmgoers expecting a gonzo revenge flick rife with Cage’s scenery chewing are bound to be either disappointed or surprised. The actual film is a truly thoughtful and unyieldingly ambiguous mood piece, shot right here in Portland.
The premise of Pig is simple: Nic Cage is a loner living in a shack in the woods with only his beloved truffle pig as a companion. His only connection with human society is his truffle buyer, played by Alex Wolff, who offers a nuanced performance. One day, some faceless ruffians break into the loner’s shack and nab the hog. When he comes to, our loner wants that pig back.
But what follows is a meditation on loss rather than a quest for revenge. The search to recover the pig cues an odyssey back into the Portland restaurant scene that Cage’s character turned his back on years ago. As the film slowly reveals more and more of the past, Cage’s protagonist draws closer to those who know his pig’s fate and the film starts exploring the tension between authenticity and commerce.
Part of what makes Pig so unique, aside from the quirky premise, is its distinct narrative and aesthetic style. Director Michael Sarnoski’s tendency for pregnant pauses, narrative ellipses and a dark, textural cinematography puts Pig closer to Slow Cinema and the likes of Béla Tarr than the schlock we’re used to seeing Cage in. Cage, in his own right, is subdued and haunting as a quiet man living with demons but still in pursuit of a dream. And yet, this is an unrelentingly ambiguous film: uncompromising, elusive and even fierce. As such, Pig exemplifies the realness its own main character represents.
Directed by Michael Sarnoski, Starring Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin