25 September 2012 7:10 AM, PDT | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

A little more than a week into its wide release, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master has already established itself as that rare beast, a popular film with a lot on its mind — one that bears and maybe even demands repeated viewings. (Critics Stephanie Zacharek and Dana Stevens each have thoughts on whether or not a movie should need to be seen more than once.) And each of these viewings can yield new and varying interpretations. So, what is The Master about? Here are five potential avenues of thought. (Naturally, there are spoilers ahead. You are forewarned.)The search for a family and stability. Several times, we see a shot of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) lying down next to a sand sculpture of a woman. Admittedly, it's a sand sculpture that he humps in the film's opening minutes, but the tender way that he later cuddles up to it suggests »


- Bilge Ebiri

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