A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Returning from Navy service in World War II, Freddie Quell drifts through a series of breakdowns. Finally he stumbles upon a cult which engages in exercises to clear emotions and he becomes deeply involved with them. Written by
Alan Young, edit Hal Issen
I was fortunate enough to see this film much earlier than most. To me it seems like Anderson is really hitting his stride with this one. It was odd to me that upon exiting the theater the thing that I wondered about most of all is what the hell is he going to do next!
The Master is not an easy movie to sit through, and at times you don't even know what the movie wants. But then you realize that the movie doesn't want anything. All it asks is for you to observe. More so than his earlier films, "The Master" and "There Will Be Blood" really venture into the realm of the film as being a purely cinematic presentation of a life. Anderson doesn't pass judgment or any point of view, he merely stretches the canvas which allows his characters to speak for themselves.
Yes, there is a beginning, middle and an end, but is there? Do we really have a sense of catharsis at the end of "There Will Be Blood"? or do we simply understand "man" a little better?
Anderson insisted, as I'm sure he would say the same for this film, that "There Will Be Blood" wasn't a metaphor for anything. It was what it was. No hidden meaning, no sophisticated and often formulaic subtext. It's simply man. As Hoffman's character says in the trailer for "The Master" - "But above all, I am a man".
The movie deals with an interesting idea of the leader vs. the soldier, master vs. slave. It breaks down the anatomy of a relationship so you may interpret it in any way you'd like.
It's beautifully shot on 65/70mm film which is the way I saw it and the way I recommend for you to see it if you get a chance to. Feels almost as if Anderson is giving the finger to the digital revolution by shooting his film on a resolution so high that digital can only dream of getting there in about ten years or so.
The acting and the dialog is superb as you'd expect. Phoenix and Hoffman are on a different level here, especially Phoenix in a role of a life time. There are definitely times in this film that he completely disappears into that role. There is also some great supporting work from Laura Dern and others.
It would be difficult to place this film in his body of work. More than anything it feels like the natural continuation of what he started with "There Will Be Blood". Not to say that he will continue on this path but just that this is definitely a more narrowly focused film than some of his earlier ensemble work.
I found it to be less engaging than some of his other work and yet there was never a dull moment. You're always on your toes, trying to understand what's going on and where the movie is leading you.
It really is simply, just like man, a fascinating piece of work.
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