Nov 11, 2012

The Master


At the very least The Master will be the most unique film you will see in 2012. More then likely though it will be the best film you will see. I would have it say it is for me. That is, unique and incredible, if not perfect. Although it comes pretty close. Paul Thomas Anderson is a singular film maker. In my opinion the greatest film maker of his generation. In 15 years of film making he hasn't put a foot wrong. In fact 3 of his films would find a place in my five favourite films of all time, with Magnolia being the film that I think is his greatest achievement. The Master isn't his best film, but it's so full of majesty, drama and originality that it fits easily somewhere between extraordinary and breathtaking. It will more then likely divide audiences. It's not an easy film by any means. But it reaches for the stars. I will definitely see it again.

The Master has germinated for quite a while. At one point shelved before Annapurna Pictures and Megan Ellison came to the rescue, it was filmed in the middle of 2011 in California. Originally Jeremy Renner was tagged to play Freddie Quell, a lonely, unsettled naval veteran struggling to come to terms with life after World War Two. After Renner dropped out Joaquin Phoenix came aboard and his performance is sublime and extraordinary. Surely it will earn him an Oscar. He certainly deserves it. Quell is unpredictable and prone to fits of rage. After a string of jobs after the war he happens upon a boat that is holding a wedding and bound for New York. The man at the head of the boat is Lancaster Dodd, also known as 'The Master'. Dodd sees something in the broken Quell and takes him under his wing. As you may know people have tied this film to the origins of Scientology. But Anderson has stated that even though there are elements in this, it is certainly not a strict history of that religion. This is certainly no biopic. In fact Anderson doesn't try to give a full rundown of  'The Cause', the teachings of Dodd. He gives an insight, a feeling. But this more a story of two men. The older man who is strangely charismatic and defensive and the younger man who is erratic and lost. In some strange ways they need each other and the scenes between them are quite remarkable. The story moves along through several cities including Philadelphia and Phoenix, charting the stormy relationship between the two men and giving glimpses into cult and devotion. It is shot in rich and beautiful colour and the score by Jonny Greenwood is unsettling and hypnotic. As great as Phoenix is Philip Seymour Hoffman matches him step for step as Dodd, 'The Master'. Amy Adams is also great as his steely eyed wife. This is a powerful film, full of many great moments and faultless performances. It takes its time and doesn't have any sort of traditional story arc, but by the end you will be knocked out and asking for more. I certainly was. Questions abound and that has to be great thing for any worthwhile cinema.

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