Pig (Michael Sarnoski, 2021)

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Pig (Michael Sarnoski, 2021)

#1 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 14, 2021 12:52 am

Pig

The latest Nicolas Cage vehicle plays against expectations in nearly every possible way, subverting its plot’s ludicrousness, its genres’ thematic and skeletal trajectories, and even the direction of the central performance itself.

The film is essentially a transcendental noir, hitting the beats of the existential path but with an inspired twist that meditates on the universality of loss in order to unlock its reciprocal gratitude for love and enhanced philosophical growth through individualized histories, holding the loneliness and unity together as part of a whole that resembles life’s series of endlessly contradictory- yet complementary- experiences. The narrative postures at the revenge angle before going in a very different direction, inverting this idea by self-reflexively liberating the characters of both the genre's and our own psyche's oversimplified constraints, to locate a third way of compassion that is one preferred answer to pain (a showstopping intimate interaction with a random chef from Cage's past at the midpoint, contemplating what is 'real' and what is a mirage of truth, professes the value of this expanded consciousness in a raw, impactful manner). This film repeatedly finds the hope within the fatalism from noir, recognizing the comprehensive finality and our powerlessness over history, events, and time- or objective fate- and simultaneously acting as an anti-noir, empowering endless subjective optimism within the opportunities around us to develop our spiritual self through remaining present.
SpoilerShow
The final shot’s acknowledgement of a higher power is deliberately ambiguous to the context of whether or not it’s appreciated, but that indifference feels appropriate. Cage’s mixed state of broken despair and his willingness to continue to remember and work and look ahead are not only allowed to coexist, but must coexist if we are honest with ourselves. It’s what this film has been about, for the triggers for both his heartbreak and most ardent meaning for his existence as one in the same.

Cage is great, demonstrating the gravity of a man with vast psychological wear on his soul without saying much at all, but Adam Arkin arguably has the more challenging role, as he is singlehandedly required to sell the crescendo of this novel course just right in order to prevent the entire work from caving in on its own risky wavelength, and he succeeds with precision of attuned idiosyncrasies that can’t be explained or taught, but are sincere within emotional logic we can glean with affinity. This is a film that takes itself quite seriously and earns its evolved spine, following noir peripherally while focusing efforts on the layers of psychospiritual meaning divorced from, and intertwined with, our social environments; our narratives bonded to history.

In a strange way, this is the small indie film answer to what Nolan did with Tenet (and most of his films really), which took high-stakes sci-fi concepts and a Bond-spy framework to extract a rumination on the weight of empathy we feel so monumentally it’s inexplicable- only Pig reaches greater poignant depths, is more philosophically complex, and utilizes its genre sandboxes with more carefully targeted inversions to its tropes (to degrees that would be amusingly cheeky if the film wasn’t so damn austere- though it’s got enough of a sense of humor to wink in recognition of its eccentricities in a few intentionally humorous moments= plus it kinda turns into a mismatched buddy-road movie for a while there too!)

The film isn't venturing in a blanket-optimist direction though, as its central conceit validates our drive to hide away from the world due to unmanageable suffering. I also love Matt Zoller Seitz's reading of the film being about our own psychological processes for personal myth-making, for it stretches this heftiness of stakes we hold our life expectations to in a manner that deconstructs these as falsely defined solipsisms and also incites a unique informative approach to authenticate their subjective rationality. I was left awestruck and inspired to reframe the past, my losses, and my present circumstances into treasure, as momentary stones leading to a brighter future. On a personal note, as someone who just lost two cats - the first and only pets/animals I’ve ever loved, and who I’ve been mourning incessantly as of late- this was cathartic beyond words on both very specific and abstract planes. Additionally, this was the first in-person screening IFF Boston hosted since Portrait of a Lady on Fire back in early Nov 2019, so it was a perfect thematic extrapolation of the possibilities and hope awaiting the immediate future of harmonic collective engagements around art.

RIP Film
Joined: Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:53 pm

Pig

#2 Post by RIP Film » Mon Sep 20, 2021 11:52 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Jul 14, 2021 12:52 am
Pig

The latest Nicolas Cage vehicle plays against expectations in nearly every possible way, subverting its plot’s ludicrousness, its genres’ thematic and skeletal trajectories, and even the direction of the central performance itself.

The film is essentially a transcendental noir, hitting the beats of the existential path but with an inspired twist that meditates on the universality of loss in order to unlock its reciprocal gratitude for love and enhanced philosophical growth through individualized histories, holding the loneliness and unity together as part of a whole that resembles life’s series of endlessly contradictory- yet complementary- experiences. The narrative postures at the revenge angle before going in a very different direction, inverting this idea by self-reflexively liberating the characters of both the genre's and our own psyche's oversimplified constraints, to locate a third way of compassion that is one preferred answer to pain (a showstopping intimate interaction with a random chef from Cage's past at the midpoint, contemplating what is 'real' and what is a mirage of truth, professes the value of this expanded consciousness in a raw, impactful manner). This film repeatedly finds the hope within the fatalism from noir, recognizing the comprehensive finality and our powerlessness over history, events, and time- or objective fate- and simultaneously acting as an anti-noir, empowering endless subjective optimism within the opportunities around us to develop our spiritual self through remaining present.
SpoilerShow
The final shot’s acknowledgement of a higher power is deliberately ambiguous to the context of whether or not it’s appreciated, but that indifference feels appropriate. Cage’s mixed state of broken despair and his willingness to continue to remember and work and look ahead are not only allowed to coexist, but must coexist if we are honest with ourselves. It’s what this film has been about, for the triggers for both his heartbreak and most ardent meaning for his existence as one in the same.

Cage is great, demonstrating the gravity of a man with vast psychological wear on his soul without saying much at all, but Adam Arkin arguably has the more challenging role, as he is singlehandedly required to sell the crescendo of this novel course just right in order to prevent the entire work from caving in on its own risky wavelength, and he succeeds with precision of attuned idiosyncrasies that can’t be explained or taught, but are sincere within emotional logic we can glean with affinity. This is a film that takes itself quite seriously and earns its evolved spine, following noir peripherally while focusing efforts on the layers of psychospiritual meaning divorced from, and intertwined with, our social environments; our narratives bonded to history.

In a strange way, this is the small indie film answer to what Nolan did with Tenet (and most of his films really), which took high-stakes sci-fi concepts and a Bond-spy framework to extract a rumination on the weight of empathy we feel so monumentally it’s inexplicable- only Pig reaches greater poignant depths, is more philosophically complex, and utilizes its genre sandboxes with more carefully targeted inversions to its tropes (to degrees that would be amusingly cheeky if the film wasn’t so damn austere- though it’s got enough of a sense of humor to wink in recognition of its eccentricities in a few intentionally humorous moments= plus it kinda turns into a mismatched buddy-road movie for a while there too!)

The film isn't venturing in a blanket-optimist direction though, as its central conceit validates our drive to hide away from the world due to unmanageable suffering. I also love Matt Zoller Seitz's reading of the film being about our own psychological processes for personal myth-making, for it stretches this heftiness of stakes we hold our life expectations to in a manner that deconstructs these as falsely defined solipsisms and also incites a unique informative approach to authenticate their subjective rationality. I was left awestruck and inspired to reframe the past, my losses, and my present circumstances into treasure, as momentary stones leading to a brighter future. On a personal note, as someone who just lost two cats - the first and only pets/animals I’ve ever loved, and who I’ve been mourning incessantly as of late- this was cathartic beyond words on both very specific and abstract planes. Additionally, this was the first in-person screening IFF Boston hosted since Portrait of a Lady on Fire back in early Nov 2019, so it was a perfect thematic extrapolation of the possibilities and hope awaiting the immediate future of harmonic collective engagements around art.
Caught Pig the other night and knew next to nothing about it going in, aside from Marc Maron’s praise for it. I thought it was good, if not sometimes a bit murky in its intent. Given the austere outset of the film I thought it was going to be some naturalistic character study, what I didn’t expect were the genre conventions (and some subsequent clichés) as it went on. But your post therewillbeblus allowed me to appreciate it more, particularly once viewed in the context of it being an inverted noir/revenge film.
SpoilerShow
Casting a grizzly Nicholas Cage is kind of brilliant in that regard, who seems ripe for one of those out for blood, late-career comebacks. But that’s not what this is, his weapon of choice is… honesty? And also just existing. My favorite aspect of the film is how it repeatedly sets up these points of comparison between Rob and those living on a much different plane and social strata. There’s this friction going on throughout the narrative, and in typical revenge film fashion it culminates in the mansion of “the bad guy” who kidnapped “the girl”. During the confrontation, It’s abundantly clear that these two men are similar but processed life by going in opposite directions. What I found most touching though is that in the finale, there is no judgement on either of them. Rob, having forsaken his success and gone on to live a life more honestly and in accordance with his perception of truth, is seemingly no better off. I think many of us have had notions of leaving it all behind to go live in the woods, but the perspective here seems to be, it’s no less romantic than living in a mansion.

Rob left everything but his history and experience with cooking led him to this hobby. The mistake he made was in attaching himself to this pig, which whether he realized it or not, is what he used to both acknowledge the past and forge a new identity— as friend and caretaker of this animal. But the pig is the lynchpin to who he is, and once pulled, he has to reconcile who that person is, all over again. The last shot definitely hits hard with Rob settling in for the night but with an empty bed on the floor.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Films of 2021

#3 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Sep 20, 2021 3:53 pm

Nice thoughts! It's definitely a film that demonstrates the inexorable pain an empath carries. Cage has a photographic memory of all the meals he's cooked, the joys he's brought to everyone, and can see peripherally in ways that most people cannot (that speech with the former-waiter/now-restaurant owner about following his dreams, for example) and yet when that energy is not matched by his environment he is so very alone, not to mention the trauma and self-flagellating isolation he's descended (rather than ascended) into. I take the ending as far less cynical -
SpoilerShow
Cage is looking up, seeing peripherally again, peeling back yet another layer of the onion. He is now 'ready' to stop living with distractions and look towards God, or a higher power of his understanding that connects everything and has a role in his life. It's a deeply spiritual moment that is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but just 'is'. It's also the meaning of life, to keep discovering as one moves through life experiences. I don't think attaching himself to the pig was a mistake, but it was a borderline-'healthy' distraction that revealed itself as a sublimated form of his love, despite Cage's best efforts (and intent) to retreat from this love. Cage is unable to totally shut himself off from that love, and proved it with his affection for the animal. Going through this second loss allowed him to realize that he cannot escape this asset, and, more importantly, the experience served as a mirror for him to see it as an asset. So he looks up into the heavens, rather than down at his feet with inebriated self-pity, as he may have done in the past; willing to ascend, and perhaps open to loving again.

At the very least, it's the first step- one that avoids the wallowing in 'self' and turns toward something greater than the 'self' for guidance. It's a moment of ache, but aching acceptance, a surrender that will open doors rather than close them.

RIP Film
Joined: Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:53 pm

Re: The Films of 2021

#4 Post by RIP Film » Tue Sep 21, 2021 1:06 pm

Yeah I mostly agree.
SpoilerShow
The pig was not a mistake, only in the sense of being the seed that brings him into this renewed world of hurt and vulnerability; the part of himself he can't let go of simultaneously makes him discoverable, not unlike in A History of Violence and by extension Out of the Past. But here the protagonist doesn't lose himself in the end. He was told no one would know if he died, that he didn't exist, but by the conclusion he is telling the kid to use his name, moreover the kid knows who he is-- there is a person in that cabin. He regains himself rather than merely existing in opposition to grief.
I find the ending cautiously optimistic, at the same time there is an apocalyptic air to all of it that I can't dismiss. I suppose to me the story is less about personal redemption than the leveling effects of grief and depression, and how the more "modern" we get the greater the polarities in individual responses to it.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Films of 2021

#5 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Sep 21, 2021 2:48 pm

RIP Film wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 1:06 pm
I suppose to me the story is less about personal redemption than the leveling effects of grief and depression, and how the more "modern" we get the greater the polarities in individual responses to it.
Well said, my reframe would only be the revelation that "personal redemption" is magnetically-inevitable and yet brought to inertia by the mass of antisocial cultural and personal stressors that both deplete identity and create empty myths as defene mechanisms. Cage just sitting there, finally not engaging with either of those paths and looking up, is the only thing he can do- powerless, and physically stagnant- but it's the only hope. That doesn't mean his narrative will be rainbows and sunshine, but it is seemingly the 'right' direction, all things considered.

Jack Phillips
Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2007 2:33 am

Re: The Films of 2021

#6 Post by Jack Phillips » Tue Sep 21, 2021 7:30 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 2:48 pm
RIP Film wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 1:06 pm
I suppose to me the story is less about personal redemption than the leveling effects of grief and depression, and how the more "modern" we get the greater the polarities in individual responses to it.
Well said, my reframe would only be the revelation that "personal redemption" is magnetically-inevitable and yet brought to inertia by the mass of antisocial cultural and personal stressors that both deplete identity and create empty myths as defene mechanisms. Cage just sitting there, finally not engaging with either of those paths and looking up, is the only thing he can do- powerless, and physically stagnant- but it's the only hope. That doesn't mean his narrative will be rainbows and sunshine, but it is seemingly the 'right' direction, all things considered.
So, then, the groundwork has been laid for Pig 2? :D

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geoffcowgill
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:48 pm

Re: The Films of 2021

#7 Post by geoffcowgill » Wed Sep 22, 2021 12:40 pm

Jack Phillips wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 7:30 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 2:48 pm
RIP Film wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 1:06 pm
I suppose to me the story is less about personal redemption than the leveling effects of grief and depression, and how the more "modern" we get the greater the polarities in individual responses to it.
Well said, my reframe would only be the revelation that "personal redemption" is magnetically-inevitable and yet brought to inertia by the mass of antisocial cultural and personal stressors that both deplete identity and create empty myths as defene mechanisms. Cage just sitting there, finally not engaging with either of those paths and looking up, is the only thing he can do- powerless, and physically stagnant- but it's the only hope. That doesn't mean his narrative will be rainbows and sunshine, but it is seemingly the 'right' direction, all things considered.
So, then, the groundwork has been laid for Pig 2? :D

Pig 2: Babe in the City. Sounds a little sexist.

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