on 1 May 2013
The mid-range star rating for this film is, for me, a glowing endorsement that it's worth a look. In an age where the inoffensive, forgettable or mediocre will guarantee positive reviews, something that divides opinion has got to be worth a look.
For me, The Master is an incredible film - far, far better all round than the director's previous work, There Will Be Blood. The cinematography is stunning from the first shot to the last and the acting performances are nothing short of extraordinary.
Plus, though the story doesn't necessarily have all the answers, there is no question that you'll be thinking about the meaning long after the final credits. A film that makes you think and debate - got to be a good thing.
That said, I think the overall meaning of The Master is fairly clear - and it's summed up in the final scene.
One thing is for sure - how The Master didn't end up sweeping the Oscars is an injustice. The two leads are nothing short of amazing and Joaquin Phoenix delivers a mesmerising performance. Never mind this year, it is acting worthy of an Oscar in any year in recent memory.
And that quality is (very nearly) matched by every other lead.
Sure, for some, The Master won't be to their taste, which is fine, but I found it worked brilliantly both as a film in its own right and as a work of art.
on 12 August 2015
Visually stunning, but not making sense like Magnolia and There will be blood. It seems like an unfinished painting, where you see characters talking, watchin the landscape, moving around with no sense of direction, looking for some sense but maybe living some unspoken thought and feeling that you can get as a viewer. The point is that you do not know if this is a mysterious and obscure film or if it just poses as an author film but has not a density and true essence underneath and inside. It looks like late Malick's films, that are just a justapposition of ideas and beautiful scenes, of silence and weirdness, but they do not know what they are looking for, exactly like their characters. Anyway it is a unique experience
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddie Quell who is a World War II vet who has served in the merchant navy too. Whilst on active duty he developed a penchant for making magic hooch type mixes to get through the stress and monotony of war. On his return Stateside it is clear that he has been traumatised by his experiences. He has to attend classes for what is now called `post traumatic stress disorder' or PTSD, and it is all a bit basic, so he leaves.
After a succession of down at heel jobs and increasingly erratic behaviour, he stowaways on board the boat of charismatic cult leader, Philip Seymour-Hoffman playing Lancaster Dodd or `The Master'. He has some loyal followers who believe in his theories of time travel regress therapy. It is not long before Quell falls under the thrall of The Master, but as things develop so do the real basis for the relationship and all, as ever, is not what it seems.
To say any more would indeed be a plot spoiler. This is essentially a character study of two people and the main leads both take their character studies to the enth degree making even Mr Day-Lewis seem a bit tardy by comparison when he wears his false beard. The central performances are quite rightly at the heart of this and it is their performances that make this so engrossing. It is also brilliantly framed in nigh on every shot, with use of interesting camera angles.
Writer and director Paul Thomas-Anderson (`There Will Be Blood' and `Boogie Nights') has made a thought provoking and stylish study of the human spirit. This was Academy nominated, but got a no show. I was bemused by it at first as Quell was a bit unlikable and yet I wanted to see what happened to him. This is also a film about, essentially these two men and so is far from a rollicking adventure. The supporting cast are all top rate too and I could not spot a single dud performance, the attention to period detail is spot on and even at 2 hours and 24 minutes it held my attention through out. It will not be for everybody but I found it almost addictive and is one that you will come back to think about, lovers of Paul Thomas-Anderson's previous work will definitely want to see this.
Very interesting story of two men who need each other. One is the articulate control type, the other a free agent without direction.
Both are addicted to their own cause. Seymour-Hoffman's is up-front bravado whilst Pheonix is the secretive underground chemical stimulator. They blend very well.
If this film has the subtext of Scientology then Scientology is nothing more than words to follow around a charismatic leader. Hollow words. Firm leadership.
I was especially pleased that the free agent wins the day. Using the Cause and then dropping it as he sees right through it and its empty leader. Give a free agent a motorbike and he will just keep going.
Sex. Ignorance. Compliance.
on 15 January 2015
Ways this film is like marmite; they are both an acquired taste, they have a powerful content, they are colorful (marmite's packaging) and they evoke a strong reaction.
I have only seen this film once but I hope to see it again soon because this film has allot of layers which deserved to be peeled open.
Music - emotive and compelling.
Cinematography - bright, brilliant and beautiful
Dialogue - thoughtful but realistic.
Acting - flawless.
Characters - interesting and flawed.
Sets and costumes - pitch perfect.
Mood - serious and somber.
Story - original and non-linear
Target audience - those interested in psychology (what post traumatic can do to you), cults and what great acting is.
I have a huge respect for the film but I enjoyed it less than I though I would, due to it being darker (some of the treatment of the characters made me feel uncomfortable which took me out of the movie slightly) and serious than my expectations. However; I look forward to seeing it again and see if I can peel back the layers to this genius film.
All in all; I think everyone should see this movie because it is unique, provocative, beautiful and can start a conversation which is always a good thing.
Content warning; there is full female nudity, sex and foul language but no blood.
As a big fan of P T Anderson's (Magnolia being one of my all time favourite movies) and PSH, I was expecting something quite different from what this film actually offers. With the subject matter I also expected something a bit conspiracy-ish, but in reality the movie is a long, well acted, often engaging, but ultimately pointless study of the minutiae of the relationship between flawed master and even more flawed pupil. The problem for me was that I actually didn't mind the Master as flawed teacher (however much rubbish he spouted) but utterly disliked the person (Freddie) we were supposed to empathise with. The surprise was how important Peggy is in the whole thing. The smaller supporting casts aren't particularly interesting, which makes a film of this detail and length a slow burner, which is not very satisfying and ultimately didn't deliver any sort of denouement which it felt it was crying out for. I can't criticise it a huge amount though because the screenplay, and the trio of Master, Freddie and Peggy are so well inhabited by Hoffman, Phoenix and Adams and they are the reason I kept on watching and was kept engaged to the end, even if disappointed with the story itself.
It is rare to fear for the life of the leading man (The Machinist being the last example) but Joaquin Phoenix reaches into the very soul of his character - a wrecked ex-sailor with a taste for serious alcohol - and as he gets thinner and more gaunt his resemblance to a death-head increases. He has not only played Johnny Cash, he has become him but with no June Carter. Into this wrecked life comes the admirable Philip Seymour Hoffman becoming (as ever) the cynosure of our attention peddling his brand of rambling regression therapy. Why do these two opposites attract, does either really believe the other, how much of what we see happens and how much is imagined; Paul Thomas Anderson is not the chap to let on, and you'll have to fill in the gaps yourself. In asking this of his audience the director may have gone one step beyond. The film may or may not be about Scientology (the suggestion at least provides some background for gap filling) but it certainly about that generation who came out of the war with some serious addictions and a lot of trauma. If it drifts then it does no more than track them in that drifting.
on 18 November 2012
(dir Paul Thomas Anderson/143 mins)
This is a spoiler-free review.
Rarely does a film arrive so wet with critical saliva, though, like marmite, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is dark, distinctive and divisive. Some will hail it as genius, some will leave the cinema wishing they'd stayed home and watched Boogie Nights on DVD. Either way it is sure to provoke a reaction. Personally, I loved everything about it (although the same sadly cannot be said for marmite).
Yet, I can't recommend it. I simply can't. I could never confidently look a friend in the eye and assure them that this is worth seeing. I couldn't even tell them what it was about, let alone its genre. There's no `Well, if you liked this film, you'll be sure to like The Master' analogy to be made here because it defies comparison, eludes classification and is like no other film I've ever seen because Anderson makes no attempt to befriend his audience. Such a rebellious approach can be alienating, but it also proves exciting and rewarding as a viewer, because seldom do directors dare to make origami out of the rulebook in such a thrilling way. His narrative is fractured and drifting, as aimless as Freddie Quell (a career best performance from a superbly contorted Joaquin Phoenix). The ever excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, the eponymous and charismatic Master; whose subtle, seamless seduction of Quell and the other members he recruits to his Cause mirrors Anderson's relationship with us as an audience. Arguably, it is he who is the true Master here.
I stumbled out of the cinema feeling much the same way as I do whenever I see a David Lynch picture - almost dizzy, almost drunk, as if I have just woken from a troubled sleep, nursing an intense hangover, unable to quite come to terms with or make sense of what I've just witnessed, still haunted and fascinated by my nightmare. The outside world takes time to come back into focus, slowly bleeding back in as I gradually recover. I'd forgotten all about the existence of human life, forgotten about roads and pavement and traffic. This is very much the sign of a good film, if you ask me. I look forward to revisiting this particular nightmare again on DVD.
Whether or not you'll feel the same is impossible to say...
on 24 March 2013
A real piece of film created for once, this is a challenging but richly rewarding film. Fantastically directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, some of the best acting you're likely to see by Joaquin Phoenix, Phil Hoffman and Amy Adams and one of the best scores ever by Jonny Greenwood. This film DEMANDS more than one watch, there is so much going on the film and its utterly great. Buy, watch.
By the end of this worthily if wearyingly impressive film, I was beginning to get restless.
The great Philip Seymour Hoffman (now so tragically gone from us) adds to his gallery of mesmerising performances as the titular Master, with the always worth watching Amy Adams as his pregnant wife, who more and more appears to be the `power behind the throne`. Both are terrific.
Joaquin Phoenix here looks like a half-starved cross between Montgomery Clift after his accident and a shorter, more mannered Daniel Day Lewis (coincidentally the star of maverick director Paul Thomas Anderson`s previous film, the far more coherent There Will Be Blood). Don`t get me wrong, Phoenix is a man champing at the bit - he`s Brando, Clift & Dean here, you name it - but his loping, twitchy take on Freddie Quell, ex-soldier on the loose, gets wearing, and I`m not sure it isn`t merely a fascinating character in search of a better film, better script, and a better reason for existing.
The wonderful Laura Dern is wasted in a too-small role of a follower of the cult set up by the Master (which, despite denials, looks like a disguised Scientology) and too many of the characters are either left stranded by the director or given plenty to do but with too little reason for their actions.
It`s one of those `loaded` films where I can`t help thinking that one vital ingredient is missing: real life. This is a story that needed to be told, but it could have been either much more visceral and less like an American art-film wanting to please, or a more open-ended, Altman-like ramble, which might have given Phoenix, Hoffman, Adams et al more room to let rip.
That said, Hoffman is superb, Adams is near-perfect, and Phoenix is, despite my above concerns, brilliant. I just can`t help wondering: to what purpose? In the end, the Cause (the enigmatically symbolic name of the cult) seems to be a touch too cosy for anyone`s comfort. Perhaps that`s the point. And I do `get` that Freddie is a war-scarred outsider searching for - for something, a place to belong.
The early scenes - if I hadn`t known a little of the back-story before I saw it - could have been very confusing, particularly as we are concentrating so much on the startling figure of Freddie and his often outrageous behaviour that it`s easy to miss what is being set up.
This is a film that will get people talking, but I reckon half that talk will be about whether the film is as good as it wants to be, rather than the issues it hopes to raise.
An ambitious, intelligent, fascinating, deeply flawed film.
Seven out of ten.