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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
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.
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.Read more ›
(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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Film-maker Paul Thomas Anderson’s penchant for protagonists either seeking (or having foisted upon them) redemption can be traced through Mark Wahlberg’s coerced innocent, Dirk... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Keith M
An intensely charismatic performance by Philip Symore Hoffman and Joaquín Phoenix. The build up of insanity and tragedy through out the film is portrayed so well by the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Josh Brook-Lawson
Harsh and strange humanist collision of two men - both confidence tricksters in their own way - suffering and fighting against the injustice of the world. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Stuart King
Brilliant film with outstanding performances by Joaquin Phoenix and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Atomic Frog