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The Master [Blu-ray]
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Paul Thomas Anderson writes and directs this Academy Award-nominated drama about a US Navy veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder who seeks salvation in the company of a charismatic cult leader. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Freddie Quell, a troubled drifter who arrives home to post-WWII America shaken, disillusioned and fearful of the future. A raging alcoholic, Quell cannot begin to make sense of his deeply-rooted inner torment, let alone surmount it. When he meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the 'master' of a cult called The Cause, an intense and ambiguous relationship develops between the two men. But do Dodd's teachings hold the power to turn Quell's life around?
Paul Thomas Anderson's closely observed character study represents a reverse image of its predecessor, There Will Be Blood, in which a prospector (Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis) and his protégé (Paul Dano) engaged in an epic battle of wills.
In this more tonally consistent effort, the acolyte takes center stage. Gaunt, tightly wound, and eerily reminiscent of Montgomery Clift, Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, an ex-naval officer suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Since World War II, he's had difficulty holding down a job due to his hot temper and affinity for paint thinner-spiked potions, but the charismatic Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman in a more subtle, but equally skillful turn) finds him irresistible as a project, a surrogate son--maybe even the shadow self that he normally keeps hidden (Dodd shares Quell's propensity for the occasional splenetic outburst).
Lancaster welcomes him to join the Cause, a movement that recalls Scientology by way of Freud, since he focuses on the elimination of past trauma through a pseudo-psychoanalytic exercise called processing. If he provides Quell with a surrogate family, much like Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, his loyal wife (Amy Adams) and cynical son (Jesse Plemons) seem more skeptical.
While participating in their rituals, Quell sails with the group from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, but it's hard to tell whether he really believes or whether he's just going through the motions. The lack of clear-cut conclusions will leave some viewers cold, but you've never seen a performance--simultaneously riveting and repellent--like Phoenix's before. -- Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
This film therefore raises important questions about the many dubious, eccentric cults originated in modern times by charismatic but exploitative leaders. (Could 1 or 2 of the world's so called 'Great Religions', or their sects, be just the most successful and enduring of such cults from past ages? Check the career of Joseph Smith, or another prophet who for fear of his followers' reaction I dare not name, but you can possibly guess.)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who I regret recently died suddenly) is good as the leader of the cult, the 'Master' of the film's title. Amy Adams, playing his wife, shows she can put in a more memorable and less 'prettified' performance than in her several more light-hearted films.
The problem is that none of the above changes the fact that this film is TOO FRAKKING LONG, SLOW and lacking in characters we can identify with to count as entertainment.
The solution would not be to cut out scenes. The problem is that every shot that could have been 3 seconds takes 4 or 5, every significant pause (the 'Master' believes in signifcant pauses) a second or two longer than it need be for us to get the point, every question the Master repeats 3 or 4 times (that is also part of his technique) could be repeated twice only to achieve the effect.Read more ›
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.
Dodd is a cult leader of a movement called "The Cause" which gets it name from the fact that if they used "Scientology" they would get sued. The fact that Hollywood would make what is unmistakably an anti-Scientology film is remarkable in itself.
Freddie is a wild cannon who threatens to derail the movement with his violent tendencies and lust. The Master sees him as a work in progress, one that he must conquer in order to justify his ideas to himself. His family doesn't see it that way. Good acting but the film seemed to be either poorly edited, or written, as the plot lacked proper direction and flow in relationship to the theme...which I am sure it had one if not a dozen of them.
Parental Guide: F-word, sex, masturbation, full frontal nudity. 3 1/2 stars
Their relationship is complex and strange but hovers on the symbiotic with overtones of the subversive and devisive.
The most compelling elements of this long film are its cinematography (Malaimare) and score, (Jonny Greenwood)- as they take the viewer on a hypnotic journey, filling in the gaps with atmosphere and motifs which help to simultaneously dissect and piece the story together.
The frustrating part of the direction and writing of this film is that it fails to offer the audience paramaters or validations of its characters, leaving a giant abyss of unanswered questions and ambivalent conclusions.
Of course, Hoffman and Phoenix both flex their thespian muscles here,with marvelous effect, so take note all you fledgling actors. Although it sounds so predictable and cliche to mention that the film didn't seem to have a pivotal point-but unfortunately, I really couldn't find one;certainly watch if that doesn't bother you-
However, an interesting biopic on how charismatic and powerfully addicting a cult scenario can be for the needy, disfunctional and weak minded amoung us.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Recommended! I'd watch anything with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in it and in this movie he is supporting Joaquin Phoenix who is absolutely brilliant.Published 3 months ago by Aethelbald
Another masterpiece from Anderson! The great Seymour Hoffman and Phoenix at their best! Each time I watch it I get teary knowing I'll never see S.H. in a new movie... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Cat
This film is a must for anyone who loves top drawer acting and beautiful cinematography. Much was made at the time of its apparent links with scientology but really this is a study... Read morePublished 6 months ago by MR H MCINTYRE
I'm sorry I thought this movie was dull and after 3 attempts I still have not seen the endPublished 7 months ago by T. KELLY