Skip to main content

The Master



2012
Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Joaquin Phoenix Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams

The Master is the latest from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, arguably the finest filmmaker working in American cinema. This is simply a wonderfully acted and crafted piece of film. With works like There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love PTA is a filmmaker who defies traditional convention and makes deeply personal films that are both intimate and grand in scale. This film also marks the return of Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) as composer. Greenwood composed the score for PTAs 2007 film There Will be Blood and he once again has created a beautifully complex piece of music that is as richly layered as the film it accompanies. 

Joaquin Phoenix gives a performance that is both unsettling and tragic, he plays Freddie Quell a troubled man searching for identity and meaning, two things offered by Lancaster Dodd. Hoffman plays the title character who is clearly based on L. Ron Hubbard the founder of Scientology but this film is focused on the life of Freddie Quell a man with an unhealthy taste for alcohol.

The film starts just as World War II is ending and Quell is on board a US navy ship. A few moments into the announcement of peace Freddie already has his plans made. He goes below deck and begins drinking fuel. During the film, he will also drink paint thinner and some cleaning solution from a bathroom that I couldn't identify. In addition to his alcoholism our protagonist struggles with sexual compulsion. Early in the film we witness him masturbating with a sand sculpture made by his shipmates. The scene shifts from amusing to unnerving in a matter of moments when it becomes clear that Quell is not just drunk and joking around. No, we are dealing with a man who is deeply disturbed. 

To say this film is ambiguous would be an understatement. Nothing in The Master is spoon fed or spelled out for the viewer. With that in mind this film is still incredibly accessible because of how beautiful it is crafted and how captivating the performances are. 

PTA allows us to draw our own conclusions about the themes he addresses. This is a smart choice because when you are dealing with spirituality most viewers bring a certain amount personal baggage to the film. I'm sure some people went into this wanting an indictment of Scientology and what they got was a meditation on isolation and addiction. I've heard people complain that this film doesn't have anything to say or is unsure of itself but I would argue that we have been given a rare treat with The Master, a film that has confidence in its viewer to connect the dots and fill in the blanks without a crib-sheet.

The Master is currently streaming on Netflix




Popular posts from this blog

Richard Armitage interview on SLEEPWALKER

SLEEPWALKER is the latest film from director Elliott Lester. Troubled by bouts of sleepwalking and disturbing nightmares, graduate student Sarah Foster goes to her university's sleep research center for help. When she wakes up after her first night of being monitored, the world she lives in seems to have changed in subtle, Twilight-Zone-esque ways. In fact, every time she goes to sleep now, she wakes up in a slightly different version of her world. With the help of sleep researcher Dr. Scott White, she tries to work her way back to the reality she started in. But when they finally succeed, it’s revealed that Sarah’s world is not what she thought at all.

Today my guest is one of the stars SLEEPWALKER, Richard Armitage. Tonight we talk about his work on that film as well as his work as Thorin Oakenshiled in The Hobbit Films, as John Proctor in The Crucible, and his upcoming films Ocens 8 and the Julie Delpy directed film My Zoe.

Sleepwalker is Now Available on Digital HD and On Dem…

Internet Trolls and Critics in the Age of Rotten Tomatoes - A Look at the Critical Response to GOTTI

Hate, intolerance, and cruelty are the most valued currencies in the digital age. Online publications deal in the same eye-catching tabloid headlines that were once exclusive to rags like WEEKLY WORLD NEWS and the NATIONAL ENQUIRER. The monetization of clicks is ruining many forms of journalism and film criticism is just one of them. When organizations can see what headlines are generating revenue its only natural that sensationalism would start to rise. There is no consorted hivemind like conspiracy to destroy certain films but rather internet activity that has boosted a certain type of writer. From the outside, online film critics share quite a bit with their Twitter troll counterparts.

The critical response to John Travolta's passion project Gotti has been less than favorable, in fact, it has been downright abysmal. A project over ten years in the making, Travolta has poured his heart and soul into this venture. And many writers seem to take pleasure in the film's failure.

I…

NO ALTERNATIVE review

Depression is often marked by sadness, despair, and hopelessness. The sense that things will not get better is something most of us pass through at different points in our lives. But depression is something more than that. It’s not just a temporary feeling, it’s a debilitating emotional state that you can’t simply pull yourself out of. The angry outbursts, irritability, and frustration that come along with depression can isolate individuals suffering from this condition and push them deeper into their own thoughts. Everyone needs to be heard and sometimes those who can’t express themselves in traditional forms find their voice in art.
Edvard Munch wrestled with agoraphobia and frequently had hallucinations, one of which inspired THE SCREAM, a painting so iconic that even the most casual art enthusiast is familiar with the piece.  Sylvia Plath took a more direct approach with THE BELL JAR and laid out the details of her depression with brutal honesty. Briana Dickerson a white suburba…