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The Master in action.
stingil8 August 2012
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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This is extremely difficult for me. Let me just start.
jzappa7 October 2012
Yes, herein contains some of the most ravishing filmmaking of the new millennium. The period details are abstract yet precise. The score has a stark, primordial allure. It's post-WWII America: Psychologically scarred veterans attempt to cramp themselves back into society. One is loner Freddie Quell, adrift in emotional confusion. He's secured a gig as a portrait photographer at a lavish department store imagined like a temple of indulgent commercialism. But Freddie doesn't last long there. In the darkroom, he screws models and chugs rotgut he makes with photo chemicals. Ultimately, he loses it on a customer, not just hitting him but harassing and lambasting him, working out some indecipherable, irrepressible rage.

Phoenix's performance as Freddie reduces all he's done before to a preparation exercise. He longs for something, but even he can't tell you what, and that sorrow has clotted into self- destructive ritual. We see his snarly face from angles we haven't seen before. We're not sure if his leery eyes are hateful or if he's dead inside. He's a captivating animal.

Then he meets stout, articulate Lancaster Dodd, always circled by people who treat him like a prodigy, hanging on his every word, laughing at all his mugging. Lancaster fancies himself a renaissance man. He's married to Peggy, who's much more vigilant than we first think. His son trails the proceedings with a dormant pose of derision. His daughter marries a man who, like everyone else in their clique, views him as a wizard.

The film belongs to Phoenix, but Hoffman more than does his thing, his affectations ringing with conceit and fraudulence. Freddie---father dead, mother institutionalized---is naturally drawn to Dodd, who promises answers, mental freedom, happiness, even claims to cure leukemia. He's written a book his bootlickers treat as a sort of bible. He loves to charm and perform.

It's well-known that Lancaster's cult is inspired by L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology. It's not direct, but the manner in which Lancaster draws Freddie into the fold, among other things, is unmistakably influenced by the contentious institution and Hubbard's life. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't bind to that inspiration for his movie...but he doesn't bind to anything, really. You walk out muddled, wearied, wondering where to start in connecting the dots in this elegant, arresting movie. The story is as confounding as its technique is magnificent.

Anderson, the true wunderkind of the Tarantino generation, sets everything up so beautifully, you wait for the turning point to prevail so the intrigue can come to boil. Instead, nothing progresses. The dramatic developments seem to dwindle and become less consistent as the movie drifts along, and Anderson throws in pauses, like a lingering desert scene or an outstretched montage in which Freddie is made to pace in a room, that slow the movie to a drudge. Freddie's sex preoccupation, which was stressed in the film's early stretch, grows dissonant. It's less about narrative arc and more the emotional condition of two men, a twist of trust and mistrust, id and superego. PTA's vision is grand in scope, but his result is not so much ambiguous as opaque and detached.

For the first time in his immaculate career, the greatest filmmaker of his generation seems to languish. His newfound frigidness makes the film easy to admire but difficult to love. Anderson is so stunningly impressive, in fact, that it's taken me two viewings of The Master to admit all this to myself. Understandably, some critics have patronized it as deliberately evasive and occult, but isn't that just double-talk? A glorification of an artist's failure to proportionately bear his ideas? Something particularly intriguing is how the movie poses questions not so much about the importance of faith, but how far the human limit for change can extend and to confront emotional devastation so heavy it can never recover. But the film is too ambivalent or cautious to probe them in depth. By the end, it's become an opaque challenge between two phenomenal actors whose commitment to their roles is awe-inspiring, but it's manacled to a work so in awe of itself, the audience gets blockaded.
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"I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher, but above all, I am a man, just like you"
Benedict_Cumberbatch15 September 2012
Paul Thomas Anderson has grown as perhaps the greatest American auteur of his generation. At 42, this is his 6th film (following 1996's "Hard Eight", 1997's "Boogie Nights", 1999's "Magnolia" - my all-time favorite -, 2002's "Punch-Drunk Love", and 2007's "There Will Be Blood"). Like the late master Kubrick and the aging master Terrence Malick (who, coincidentally, just debuted his 6th film, "To the Wonder", at the latest Venice Film Festival where PTA won the Silver Lion for Best Director), he isn't the most prolific of filmmakers; but his perfectionist creations, cerebral yet strikingly cinematic and emotional, always leave an indelible mark (polarizing audiences but usually earning critical acclaim). "The Master" is no exception. Shot on 70mm film, it is not so much of an "outside" epic as you'd imagine - although every single image is stunning and perfectly composed (courtesy of cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., who replaced Robert Elswit, Anderson's usual collaborator). It closely resembles "There Will Be Blood" in tone and content, but it stands on its own (Jonny Greenwood is once again responsible for the score).

Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a troubled and troubling drifter who becomes the right-hand man of Lancaster Dodd (actor extraordinaire Philip Seymour Hoffman), "the master" of a cult named The Cause in post-WWII America. Their strange, ambiguous relationship is the center of the film. "The Master" is a thought-provoking indictment of cult fanaticism and lies sold as religion, which has caused controversy and concern among Scientologists even before its release. By not mentioning real names, Anderson is capable of broadening the scope of his story and making it richer - and subtler - than a straightforward "Scientology flick" would have been. Like his previous films, there's more than meets the eye at a single viewing, and his attention to detail pays off (there's also a visual homage to Jonathan Demme's "Melvin and Howard", another favorite of Anderson's, in a motorcycle racing scene). Hoffman is as good as ever, and Amy Adams is highly effective (slowly depriving herself of cutesy mannerisms) as his wife. David Lynch's golden girl Laura Dern has a small role as well. But this is Joaquin Phoenix's hour, all the way. River Phoenix's younger brother has become a fascinating actor himself since Gus Van Sant's dark comedy "To Die For" (1995), and, after his much publicized "retirement from acting" and music career hoax in 2009, he managed to come back with a performance for the ages, which shall culminate in Oscar gold. As for Anderson, it is unsure whether the Academy will finally recognize him as he deserves. His films may still be too outlandish for the Academy's taste (he's announced his next project will be an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's crime novel "Inherent Vice", a seemingly less ambitious project he hopes to make in less than five years). Regardless of Oscar numbers, we can rest assured that in a world where PTA gets to make such personal and original work and find his audience, there is still hope, and room, for intelligent filmmaking.
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Phoenix is the performance of the year! Anderson excels once again
ClaytonDavis12 September 2012
The Master is absolutely magnetic, orchestrated brilliantly by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and helmed by the commanding turns of Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Anderson has never been a director that makes a film for everyone to enjoy. In the vein of auteur directors like Terrence Malick, David Lynch, and Michael Haneke, Anderson's films aren't necessarily the most accessible despite the seeming mainstream status. Films like Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), and There Will Be Blood (2007) are reflective, tensional, studies of human behavior, all things that the average film-goer most of the time will not embrace. In The Master, Anderson constructs, absolutely magnificently I might add, two dynamic, real, and tangible men that the audience can both imagine knowing, loving, and loathe. It's the writing masterpiece of the year.

Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) gets the best character blueprints of any player to interpret. Hands down, the sharpest and best written character of the film is purely Lancaster. Anderson concentrates on his motivation and responses, giving him an arc that the audience can both easily and willingly travel with him. Hoffman's natural talents as an actor and finding himself in a character are showcased here with intensity and composure. His often seemingly blood-filled hot-headed dialogue encompasses some of the best moments of the film. It's evident Hoffman is not only enjoying himself but enjoying Lancaster. He's both repulsive but completely enamoring in structure, word, and persona. Anderson may have created the great oxymoron of cinema this century. Hoffman is damn-near perfect.

The performance of the year... On the flip side, Joaquin Phoenix not only inhabits a character never seen by him or any actor before but assembles a man from scratch, beat by beat, trait by trait. It's not just the finest acting performance of the year, not only the finest acting performance this millennium, it could be the finest work of the past twenty years or so. I can only recollect a handful of actors that have the gumption to stand toe-to-toe with Phoenix's work here. His Freddie Quell is utterly unpredictable; strutting, glaring, and holding an explosive mentality that could detonate at any moment. Phoenix controls it, even though there are many instances where you feel like he's losing it. Quell is frightening, admitting his evil, unbalance, and instability. Phoenix externalizes this in his zealous and disturbing actions but more importantly internalizes it in body language and character beats that not many actors dedicated to the craft can achieve. Joaquin Phoenix is not just Oscar-worthy, he's Oscar-bound. It's the performance you can't deny, the performance of the year. Let's hope they don't.

Where Phoenix and Hoffman are strident and vociferous, Amy Adams is internal and subtle, but always at the brim. Peggy Dodd is multifaceted and extremely complex. Adams understands her amazingly well, making intricate features that are surprising for "good-girl" Adams. She gets dirty and dominating in not only a prolific manner but in a sultry method. Adams is a revelation. Laura Dern is brief but memorable; a missed actress who should be doing more accessible work.

Jonny Greenwood's score once again, it's absolutely brilliant, well- placed, astonishing and among the best composers this year. Mihai Malaimare, Jr., cinematographer extraordinaire, is just that, extraordinary. Malaimare is painting scenes on a film canvas and we are witnessing the artist work. It's as if we're watching Bob Ross teach us the art of capture. Expect Cinematography to be named among Oscar's lineup in 2013 along with Film Editing (Leslie Jones, Peter McNulty) and Production Design (David Crank and Jack Fisk). It goes without saying, Picture, Director, and Screenplay should be there alongside them.

The Scientology subject is there and there are connections that can be made but are they obvious or intended? Not necessarily. It's not evident or offensive. I only hope that Paul Thomas Anderson and the film doesn't suffer from anyone assuming that its a slight at the group or any particular one for that matter.

Though the film takes time to warm up to, once the film soars, it's soars high. While The Master is not for everyone and there could be many detractors, there are three scenes in particular that are masterpieces in filmmaking. Anderson levels and executes a difficult subject with no fear or hesitation. He also knows his characters, what they are, who they are, and marrying the actors to them in a way not many directors can do. Anderson unites film with art again and The Master is their bond. It's good to see them together again.
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Cements Paul Thomas Andreson as the most consistent director working today
Monotreme0215 September 2012
In a broad sense, The Master tells the story of a soulless drifter, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix,) constantly drunk and with no purpose in life, finding sanctuary in the company of The Cause, a cult-like group lead by a charismatic intellectual, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman.) This plot description does not do the film full justice, because with this film, Anderson fully releases himself from the constraints of traditional narrative storytelling. The film is told in a stream-of-consciousness style, loosely linking together vignettes and moments from the time these two men spend together, without any sense of "drive," "purpose" or "goal" in the traditional screen writing sense. It is a style perfectly befitting the emotional and spiritual state of the main character, Freddie, adrift in life with no anchor or sense of purpose of his own. Throughout the film, Anderson occasionally cuts back to a shot of the wake of a slow-moving ship, placing us, the audience, aimlessly drifting through the narrative, just as Freddie is. What results is a series of scenes, snapshots of events, some narratively linked and some not. The film is very subjective, and puts us squarely in Freddie Quell's mind; as a result, no easy answers are given, many questions remain mysteries, and we never get a firmly grounded sense of reality; many events remain ambiguous and keep us wondering as to their fidelity long after the film is over.

The Master is Anderson's most cinematically humble film yet. Gone are the sweeping camera moves, rapid-fire editing and high style of his previous films; even the slow, meticulous, beautifully lit tracking shots of There Will Be Blood are gone. Instead, Anderson submits to a wholly utilitarian shooting style, only moving the camera when necessary to capture action in the shot, and using formal framing techniques and naturalistic (but still very beautiful) lighting to comment on the characters' internal states. That said, it would be impossible to talk about the film's visual style without commenting on Anderson and cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr.'s decision to shoot on 65mm film. This film stock, especially when projected in 70mm, provides the film with an unprecedented sense of clarity and sharpness. The 65mm lenses provide a very unique and distinctly shallow depth of field that adds to the dream-like quality of the film, and helps emphasize the isolation the characters feel. It would be a crime to watch the film on any other format.

All this discussion about non-narrative elements, thematic overtones and film formats is not to minimize what is possibly the film's crowning and most long-lasting achievement: the performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the most consistent performers working today and an Anderson regular, delivers another powerful, charismatic performance in line with his turn in Doubt. It is, for the most part, an effectively subtle performance, maintaining a controlled dignity peppered with the occasional outburst. Amy Adams delivers a similarly dignified performance. Her character is mostly quiet, observing from the sidelines, but she has her moments to shine in the aforementioned private scenes between her and Lancaster, in which she completely dominates him. But the highlight of the film is without a doubt Joaquin Phoenix's tremendous performance as Freddie Quell. Over the years, Phoenix has, without much fanfare, slowly but surely cemented himself as one of the best actors working today, with powerful turns in many varied films, from his deliciously villains turn as emperor Commodus in Gladiator to his quiet, grave personification of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Now, after a four-year absence from narrative films, he returns with what is undoubtedly a career best performance, and one that, with any luck, will win him a much-deserved Oscar. His utter and complete immersion in the character of Freddie Quell has to be seen to be believed. His back hunched, swinging his arms like an ape, his frame thin, his face twisted and distorted, mumbling and slurring his speech out of the corner of his mouth like he is just learning how to behave in society for the first time, and failing. And Phoenix' physical commitment to the performance doesn't stop there, either: he flings himself into scenes of raw violence that look and feel completely real. It is a crowning achievement in the art of acting and "the method," rivaling that of Daniel Day-Lewis in Anderson's previous film, and it further cements the biggest difference between Anderson and Stanley Kubrick as directors: Where Kubrick is known for his actors' cold, removed performances, Anderson has become the most consistent source for high-caliber Acting with a capital A.

It's hard to really explain what makes The Master work even though it lacks many traditional narrative elements that provide most other films with powerful drama, closure and immediate gratification. It's a very subjective experience, and I'm sure many viewers will have difficulty immersing themselves in the film without the typical sense of narrative progression and character goals. For this reason, The Master is probably Anderson's least accessible film. That said, I think it is a testament to Anderson's enormous intellect and directorial abilities that he managed to capture the attentions and fascination of so many viewers and critics. He certainly won me over; although I had more visceral and immediately satisfying reactions to Anderson's previous films, I find that The Master lingers on long after the lights went up in the theater. The film's intellectual ambitions, along with its very unique, eerie tone, will keep me mulling over the experience for days to come. Already I feel the urge to re-visit it and attempt to uncover more of the film's secrets. And that right there is a telltale sign of an instant classic film in the making.
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The Master of his fate
dvc515927 September 2012
Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is a puzzling, often bewildering film. Very few films have left me shaken and stirred and still leave me wondering, "What was that all about?" I can't say that I hated the ride. It is, quite simply, a remarkable film from one of America's best filmmakers today. This film is not for everyone, however.

The film's center plot; the one about self-described nuclear physicist, philosopher and professor Lancaster Dodd and his "organization" "The Cause" - as seen from the point of view from a shell-shocked psychotic drunk Freddie Quell. During the course of the film Lancaster and Freddie bond somewhat with Lancaster progressing his latest works.

The main performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are superb, and should warrant both of them Academy Award Nominations for Best Actor. Both of them. Phoenix is literally on fire here, his quirky mannerisms, twitching lips, unforgiving, unsettling eyes and ferocious anger and voice had me on the edge every time I see him on screen. Hoffman also is more subtle, though we see growing anger and rage whenever he feels that his work is being threatened. He can be classy, charismatic, and when threatened, loses all of that and becomes about as desperate as Freddie. Brilliant work by both actors. Watch the scene where Lancaster gets through to Freddie, or the harrowing scene where both of them are in jail cells. Special mention to Amy Adams who, while not really standing out, gives off a peculiar and somewhat sinister aura whenever she's on the screen.

Anderson's solid screenplay and his concentrated direction bring the goods. There seems to be a pattern about Anderson's last three films including this one. Both "Punch-Drunk Love" and "There Will Be Blood" featured lead characters who are extremely lonely and prone to snap to anger. "The Master" is somewhat a bit of both, where the lonely man can be both psychotic without reason and yet there are scenes which show he is, after all, a man. Some very well written lines ("If you can find peace without looking up to a master, any master...") meshed with some really great cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. that brings nice color tones to the 1950 production design. Complementing all of this is Jonny Greenwood's eerie, dissonant score which makes the movie all the more odd, unsettling, and yet compelling to watch.

Eventually, both men in the movie are the masters of their own fate, and Anderson his own. It may move some and it may turn away others, but this is a fascinating watch nonetheless. "The Master" is one of 2012's very best films.

Overall: 91%
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P.T. Anderson makes another under appreciated masterpiece
rpezl3 November 2012
Often in the history of film there have been remarkable gems, hailed by few and ignored by the masses. Over time many of these gain the credit they deserve, Citizen Kane was panned by many critics at the time and only with the passing of time has its influence and brilliance been generally acknowledged. P.T. Anderson's new film The Master may not be Citizen Kane but it is certainly in the same vein. As Orson Welles modeled Charles Foster Kane after William Randolph Hearst, Anderson's new film focuses on another controversial historical figure, L. Ron Hubbard. Like Welles, Anderson treats his characters with the same mixture of examination and empathy that leaves you questioning pre- conceptions and wondering what truly defines an individual.

In post-war America Freddie Quell (played by Joaquin Phoenix) , a former soldier with an abnormal libido and a hobby of making near toxic alcohol, is wandering through life like an actor oblivious of his stage. His course takes a slight detour when he wakes up aboard a ship with Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his followers who make up "The Cause", a cult-ish religion clouded in the guise of science, philosophy and psychology. Dodd sees in Quell the opportunity to display the power of his new methods, and in Dodd Quell sees a mentor and hope for answers to the questions that plague all humanity.

Like many of Anderson's films the pace can often be trying and the often surreal visions expounded are certainly not for everyone's taste. Images of swirling water are only a drop in the bucket of metaphors Anderson buries his audience in. Like Anderson's last film, 2007's There Will Be Blood, gorgeous imagery and an eerie score help create a dream-like sense of bewilderment that stays with you long after the lights go up and the popcorn is stale.

Anderson's ability to craft film as art is only matched by his eye for talent. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his fifth collaboration with Anderson, plays Dodd with wonderful simplicity that allows the complexity of the character speak for itself. With subtly and reserve Hoffman lets his character's egotism and magnetism shine through Anderson's typically biting dialogue. Joaquin Phoenix, still recovering from his 2010 film debacle I'm Still Here, gives a powerhouse performance reminding us all what was so intriguing to begin with. Somehow Phoenix makes a character who should come off as a simpleton violent alcoholic a very empathetic and human individual. In the end he is still not very likable, like many people in this world, but you can nevertheless sympathize with his mortal struggle. Whether or not Phoenix will get the Best Actor Oscar as many have discussed is still anyone's guess, especially with the multi-Oscar winning Daniel Day Lewis (who won his second Oscar for Anderson's There Will Be Blood) in the competition. Rounding out the cast is Office darling Amy Adams as Dodd's wife Peggy, who has a far more pragmatic view of the relationship between Dodd and Quell.

It is a tragedy how often brilliance is not recognized by those in its presence. P.T. Anderson with masterpieces like Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood under his belt would surely be Oscar material, but he is not. After the fall when Spielberg and all the other mainstream directors release their fare Anderson's little art film will receive little attention. He may get a nod with yet another nomination, but the sad truth is that his work may simply be ahead of his time. Just as his films are too "arty" for mainstream box office success the Oscars are too mainstream for him. So maybe he won't get the award until he's thirty years deep like Scorsese or perhaps never at all, but perhaps that's okay. After all he is in good company, there have been other perfectionist film makers who never won the Best Director statue, like Orson Welles.
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Two very different men try to fulfill one another.
treywillwest11 October 2012
Unquestionably P.T. Anderson's best film so far. I've always liked his work, but early on I had no sense he would achieve heights such as this. Let me say this, Anderson, ALONE, I think amongst relatively big-budget American filmmakers, allows his imagery to play by its own rules. EVERY other studio filmmaker- from Scorsese to Tarantino, to Jarmusch, plays by some kind of pre-established rules-even if they are the pre-established rules of "art cinema" or "second cinema". Anderson, like Weerasthakul or Bela Tarr, speaks his own tongue. I thought There Will Be Blood was pretty great, but this is Truly Great- a singularly challenging work of art. Similarly, I would compare Daniel Day-Lewis's work in Blood with Phoenix's work here. The former was impressive, creative, witty. The latter is brave, adventuresome, and merciless. More than any of the "canonical" "method" performances of cinema, I think Phoenix reaches into places of himself, of all of us, that's very unearthing demands new philosophical questions. Here's my take, for what it's worth, of the "meaning" of the film. It's a comparison of two drastically contradictory and complementary personalities. One wants to live without any Master by becoming a Master himself. The other wants a master to give some kind of shape to his life. L. Ron Hubbard- inspired guru Lancaster Dodd (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a performance that's beautiful but not ground-breaking) is a con-man, but as I read him, he's not exactly a charlatan. He truly wants to believe the (self-serving) things he's saying, and he needs other people to believe them too. He's very successful at (least the latter half of) this. But this does not make him free. Instead, it turns him into a kind of King and, as we know from the example of Louis XVI, any sovereign is ultimately a privileged prisoner of his/her subjects. They are exempt from the laws of the land, of life, exactly in so far as others believe they are. Dodd's "freedom" from mastery is wholly dependent on the worship of the other, an other outstandingly represented by Phoenix's Freddie Quell, a potentially unbreakable "scoundrel" who Dodd both fears and admires as such. Quell is a completely, irredeemably, broken individual, whose only surviving qualities are sheer animal instinct- screw, eat, and drink. He yearns to be put back together, to be mastered by some other, to serve some sovereign and thus be welcomed back into civilization. But he's too far gone, or too savage, for that to work. He can't be mastered, even by any coherent sense of self. Dodd seeks the solitude of the sublime but is ultimately made completely dependent on the Other, while Quell, very unwillingly, achieves the freedom, and loneliness, of God.
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Oh Master !
littlemartinarocena15 September 2012
I don't remember when was the last time I got so engrossed in a film that the ending felt like snapping out of a trance. Remarkable in every detail but the detail I appreciate the most is the acting, if one can call it that. Joaquin Phoenix introduced us to a character I had never seen before on the screen. I was compelled, mesmerized. A sensation I hadn't experience since Colin Firth gave us Adrian LeDuc in 1989's "Apartment Zero". A total original but solidly planted in a reality that is undeniable. Shattering. Love him or hate him, he's not asking for sympathy on the contrary. He is defiant. Philip Seymour Hoffman adds another spellbinding character to his already extraordinary collection. And you, Mr. Anderson, who are you? Long Live The Cinema!
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My Simple Analysis
tonyleonardo14 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't know much of L. Ron Hubbard or Scientology coming into this movie but I knew a few things.

As the film progressed and the strangeness and lack of plot/hook continued apace I started to piece together in my mind what was going on, and what I came up with is this:

Freddie Quell, the Joaquin Phoenix drifter in this film, is the Id-driven alter ego component of Lancaster Dodd/Hubbard (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Quell's life is, in fact, the same as Dodd's as they inhabit the same persona.

Dodd is wrestling with his demons and his ambitions and Quell represents the Id persona Dodd/Hubbard had to leave behind in order to fulfill his self-fulfilling prophecy of purity apart from animal instincts.

This explains the closeness of the two characters, the frequent twin-ism on screen (one example: the two of them wrestling when Quell returns) and the strangeness of the plot: the plot IS Hubbard/Dodd's quest to purify himself. Quell pacing back and forth between wall and window is part of that process.

Going back and looking at the movie and researching L. Ron Hubbard it also makes sense for Anderson to split the Master character's duality into two separate characters as Hubbard seems very clearly to have been a split personality character himself.

When Hubbard/Dodd goes off to sea the metaphor is that he has to leave the Id and animal instincts on shore. This explains the (spoiler alert) ending: Quell on the shore, no longer hung up on sex, but stuck in his animal instincts nonetheless, repeating lines from Hubbard/Dodd and finally left behind on the sand with a female nipple sand sculpture: the Id is abandoned and Dodd's Ego and Superego (Amy Adams, his wife) are on the sea.

Quell's name is chosen carefully, just as carefully as this film is constructed.
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I feel as though I am one of the cause
jalec06 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and appreciate most of the other recognizable actor s in this film. This film is too long, too boring, and meanders like a mid-western river. I kept waiting and waiting for the story line to pick up, but it was at it's peak on the floor. Amy Adams played a great antagonist, but her role was stunted. Joaquin Pheonix did well to play an alcoholic with a few cards shy of a deck, but hasn't everyone played that role well? Hoffman was not so disappointing as his material was just not that good. This was not a story line worth making into a movie. I wrote a better ending walking out of the movie theater. After the master proclaims we all have our masters, Freddie bashes in his head with a white statuette. The antagonist returns to the room to find the new master in the chair and she smiles. To heap any platitudes on this movie is to become one with the cause. Stay home, save your money, clean your toilets.
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A Film Among Films
artoffilm-org15 September 2012
Superb should be the opening word. And as it is usually the case, not everyone is bound to agree. The confidence of Paul Thomas Anderson is out of this world. In "Boogie Nights" he gave us an unrepeatable Mark Whalberg, here is Joaquin Phoenix's turn. Amazing performance that will go next to three other performances that revolutionized the art of acting and create characters that were unique in every way. James Mason in "Lolita", Anthony Perkins in "Psycho" and even Colin Firth in "Apartment Zero" Coincidentally or not none of those three landmarks were nominated for Oscars, let's hope Joaquin Phoenix this time breaks that tradition. Everything about this film will make your jaw drop and I don't want to tell you anything about the film itself because part of my delight consisted on the fact I didn't know anything about the story. Don't miss it. See it in the biggest screen you can find.
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Poor Film Making
srwhelan-211 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the The Master today and was greatly disappointed & here are some of my thoughts.

Joaquin Phoenix is probably to old to play the part of a returning seaman from WW2. He's in his med to late 30"s and the vast majority of sailors were in their late teens or early twenties at wars end, little more the kids fighting wars! Also the accounts I've read about navy life state that "odd balls" were weeded out pretty quickly as they had a detrimental effect on morale. Maybe his character had enlisted straight after Pearl Harbour in late 1941 & they were taking 30+ year olds at that desperate time & his mental illness wasn't apparent? Anyway he just appears to old for the part.

The promotion of the film suggests that it's about a cult leader and how he manipulates, after all the film is called The Master. Yet the film is not about Hoffman's character but Phoenix's so maybe it should be titled "A Troubled Mind" the diary of a sick violent alcoholic?

I don't know if we have received a different cut of the film here in Australia but Amy Adams has only a very slight role in the film with only two significant moments. One where she is stimulating Hoffman & another near the end of the film in England. She is grossly under- utilised.

Phoenix's character is painful, watching this performance was what I would think it would be like sitting next to Charles Manson on a flight from Sydney to London. The flights around 22 hours and the film feels like the same time span.

As other reviews have pointed out the story line is, lets say, unclear and drifts. I've always thought Darryl F Zanuck was onto something when he would cut any & all scenes that didn't move the story forward, in this case that's a lot of cut scenes.

I was also annoyed that the Hoffman character was only briefly challenged directly about his teachings. I feel that this was a wasted opportunity to examine a cult behaving under pressure. Instead we only see the reaction of the mentally unwell violent Phoenix character.

What a shame, this could have been an interesting examination of how cults build & work but instead we got an incoherent ramblings from a writer director that in my view has only delivered one film of note.

One last thing, 26 people started watching the film, 8 walked out, 3 fell asleep & from what I could gauge no one enjoyed it. I saw 2 people encouraging the group waiting for the next session to exchange their tickets for anything else.
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*Spoilers* The Master may not convert you but it did convince me
teslatruce19 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
From the first second the movie gets going it becomes clear that Paul Thomas Anderson's ''The Master'' is not a war movie, it's not an action flick or comedy although there are some great laughs here and there. There will always be those who will go into a movie theater no matter what's being shown, hoping for some orgasmic CGI display coupled with a plot whose sole purpose is to validate the viewer's basic moral beliefs.

So to give you an idea of what the film is about(spoilers): Freddie Quell is returning home from the pacific theater in WWII, traumatized and sick of the world. His attempts to fit into society, moderate his drinking of dubious potions of alcohol he brews himself, have a normal, healthy relationship and work as a photographer all fail miserably. He ends up on a yacht after being forced on the run and meets Lancester Dodd, The Master and leader of a cult organization called The Cause. Now this film is obviously partly a critique of Scientology. Hoffman's got a good resemblance to Hubbard's physique, his character also claims to be a nuclear physicist and i believe the name ''The Cause'' is a subtle parody of CoS, the abbreviation most commonly used for The Church of Scientology.

Now although the movie is a satire of CoS and maybe religion in general i find it to be so much more. It's easy to see the film as simply the struggle and friendship between Freddie and Dodd, master and slave, yin and yang. The charismatic and secretive cult leader vs the demented and aggressive vagabond. If you'd ask me i'd say that the film is mostly about Freddie after all, there's a very dreamy quality to a lot of the narrative and it seems PTA is taking his lessons from Kubrick and Lynch in exploring Freddie's trauma. Freddie's journey from battleship to cult-commanded yacht, the captain metaphors everywhere(there's even a small statue of a captain behind a steering wheel on Lancester's desk near the end of the film), the dream scene and the scene near the end with Freddie lying on the beach all imply that there's something going on behind the curtains.

Although a lot of the film heavily resembles ''There Will Be Blood'', this film is(fittingly) more mystical and open to interpretation. (spoilers) perhaps it's symbolic that Freddie escapes from The Cause in the desert after serving his master on the sea. There's even a scene where Lancester refers to him as 'his little soldier' and people honestly say that the film is pretentious. Really? Even if this whole art-house thing might turn you off i've got to add that this film's got some amazing performances, especially from Phoenix. Anyways, if you don't mind a slow pace and a film that relies on(great) acting instead of gimmicks i'm sure The Master is something for you, unless perhaps if it insults your personal beliefs in which case there's nothing this review will do to change your mind.
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P.T. wallows in his B.M.
tshary1729 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those pretentious films that a lot of Anderson fans will claim achieves some kind of grace, but all it does is bore. Anderson has seriously gone too far with the languid shots that just on on forever, because he loves that. And go ahead and love Anderson if you have the time to watch very little happen for well over two hours.

Sure, the story could have been an intriguing expose on the emergence of Scientology and other cults after WWII-- and of course the Scientology folks would never allow it to be named specifically-- but all it says is that crazy people follow other crazy people. Anderson does draw out excellent performances from Phoenix and Hoffman, but they spend so much damn time just looking and walking around. Because that gives the film nuance, sure.

Anderson even inserts his own inside joke about his films, when The Master publishes his second verbose tome and a critic says he could have cut it down to 3 pages. Anderson did well to bring in a sweet romance, "Punch-Drunk Love", in 90 minutes, and that film was fulfilling. This is just a bunch of dreck the producers are indulging so that Anderson can win the favor of equally pretentious fans.
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Most disappointing film of the year
kaelcarp17 September 2012
I know, everyone is gushing about this movie. That, on top of the fact that I am a PT Anderson fan (Magnolia, for one, is probably a top 10 favorite of mine), is what made this so disappointing.

First, the good. Amy Adams does very well in a supporting role. The whole thing is beautifully filmed, and I liked the music as well. I thought it captured the feel of the time period very well.

On to the bad (of which there is substantially more, in my view). I'll start with the plot. There is almost none, and the movie has no hook. It never made me forget I was sitting in a movie theater. Its pace is maddeningly slow, and it is too long. A good portion of the film is spent watching Phoenix walk back and forth between a window and a wall for reasons that remain rather opaque. Yes, it's that kind of movie.

I didn't care at all about Phoenix's character or Hoffman's, and despite the rave reviews, I think neither actor brought their A-game to this one. Their characters were one dimensional, unsympathetic, and unrelatable. They didn't feel like real people. They don't really change much over the course of the movie.

What irked me most, though, was that the movie really didn't have anything to say. It had no real insights into anything. It didn't make me think or challenge my mind in any way.

When a movie fails to make me think or feel, as this one did, I can't help but regret spending money on it.
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Slow boat to nowhere
hughman5517 November 2012
Well, I really wanted to like this one. On paper it's perfect. Director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson, cast headed by Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. What could go wrong? The script. If a movie doesn't start with a good script, it can't turn out well. There is no crest to this story. And there is no denouement. It lays flat for over two hours. The actors give great performances and the scenes are constructed well. Joaquin Phoenix has moments that are tragic. And then the movie just plods on. I am fine with a film that develops slowly. I'm not fine with a film that never develops. Is it about an alcoholic? No. Is it about a cult leader? No. It's random moments, between an alcoholic and a cult leader, strung together, with no direction, and no narrative. You could extract any scene from this film, and on it's own it would stand up well. Pieced together, however, they don't add up to a story.

A story has to be about something. It has to start somewhere and it has to go somewhere. This story starts, and then goes nowhere. It is fine if the resolution of a story is simply it's endlessness. This film, however, never establishes where it's going. And, therefore, can't simply, go on forever. It never went anywhere to begin with. The actors are left to spluge all over the audience for no discernible reason. I'm over Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and have been for a while. In this role, as a sort of L. Ron Hubbard figure, he overacts to the point of caricature. For my money, the best Seymour Hoffman is "Boogie Nights", "Happiness", or "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Joaquin Phoenix is probably the most talented American actor working today, but his physically contorted, repetitive, mentally tortured, alcoholic, Freddie Quell, was never given the opportunity to become real or sympathetic, or even vile. He just, like the rest of the movie, went on, and on, and on. This actor, Joaquin Phoenix, has the chops to do anything. Check him out in "Reservation Road", "Gladiator", "Walk The Line", and his BEST, "Two Lovers". In "Two Lovers" Phoenix draws the portrait of an emotionally crippled man whose life crumbles beyond all hope (in his eyes), but through an accident of fate finds a path through which to go on living. He is riveting. There isn't anything he can't do given the opportunity. But he doesn't get the opportunity here.

Clearly this film was trying to comment on cultism. We know too much, however (Jonestown, Waco, Warren Jeffs), about cults to accept this fraction of a story. Clearly the main character was an alcoholic. Yet the film never explored his turmoil, or addiction, the way even a dumb show like "Celebrity Rehab" would. We were almost brought close enough to his story to care during his first session with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but that was not developed and ultimately went nowhere. Just like the rest of the film.

There are some shocking scenes in this film. But there is no story that justifies them. It is like watching a big screen version of "Americas Most Shocking Videos", - for over two hours. They are independently compelling, but ultimately disconnected. And they never amount to a story about anything I could wrap my arms around. For me the ultimate failure of this film is that there was no point to it. It is not an art film. It is a pointless film. And it's not that I don't get "it". There's nothing to get. Better to spend your time watching car crashes, on TV, shot from dash cams. At least you won't expect much going in.
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A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Paul Thomas Anderson's hypnotic masterpiece featuring a tour de force from Joaquin Phoenix
murtaza_mma4 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The Master is the latest film by American filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. The movie comes after a gap of five years following Anderson's highly successful outing in There Will Be Blood (2007). The Master stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams in pivotal roles. Anderson is one of the few commercial filmmakers alive today who write their own screenplays. And perhaps that's the reason why he has not been very prolific as a filmmaker—yielding only once every 4-5 years. The Master also marks the return of Joaquin Phoenix from a self-imposed acting break.

The movie presents the tale of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix)—a WWII Naval veteran on the brink of a mental breakdown. Freddie belongs to the dying breed of war veterans which finds it hard to adjust to the sanities of a post-war civilized world. The excruciating pain and mental trauma that a soldier experiences during a war is irreversible and often enough to drive him crazy. Freddie has had a troubled past but the war has broken him completely. Freddie's pitiful, perverted mental state can be best described by the two bizarre scenes presented at the beginning of the film. In the first one, Freddie is shown masturbating in front of a sand sculpture of a woman which he perversely seems to use as a substitute for a love doll. In the second one, Freddie is shown imbibing a certain fluid (most likely gasoline) directly from the fuel tank of a Navy vessel.

Freddie is dipsomaniac with a morbid liking for dangerous cocktail drinks which he prepares by mixing alcohol with toxic substances like paint thinner. After being fired from a couple of jobs because of his irascible behavior, Freddie stows away on the private yacht of Lancaster Dodd aka "The Master" (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd is the charismatic leader of a philosophical movement called "The Cause". Freddie's life changes for ever after meeting Dodd. For the second time in his life (after his stint in the US Navy), Quell sees a cause worth fighting for. He begins to show a kind of jingoistic fervor for "The Cause". Anyone who dares to oppose "The Master" and his preaching will have to first deal with him. What follows is a hypnotic journey of self-realization which will either consume Quell or will make him the true master of his fate.

The Master is a multifaceted work of cinema that can be enjoyed at so many levels. The Master has a sense of randomness attached to it that makes it a very difficult film to interpret. It may appear to have several interweaved layers to one viewer, and yet appear completely hollow to another—depending purely on the viewer's understanding and interpretation. The Master works well on both the technical and emotional fronts—another rarity for an American film. The movie's cinematography, music and editing are all topnotch, and complement each other really well.

The acting is awe-inspiring to say the least and is quite easily one of the strongest points of the movie. Also, there's enough room for character development. While the relationship that Quell and Dodd share is explicitly platonic in nature, an undercurrent of homosexual impulse cannot be ruled out. Joaquin Phoenix is electrifying in the role of a lifetime. He takes great pains in conjuring up his self-loathing, verminous, reclusive alter ego as he himself gets lot in the role. Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding in the role of Lancaster Dodd and steals each and every scene he is a part of. Anderson elicits strong performances from the supporting cast especially Amy Adams who is an absolute treat to watch as Dodd's demanding wife, Peggy.

Overall, The Master is an endlessly fascinating work of cinema that may require multiple viewings to grasp its deeper meanings. The Master is undoubtedly the best film to have come out of the English-speaking world in the year 2012. It's a real shame that the Academy yet again failed to identify a cinematic gem. The fact that the movie has not been nominated in the Best Picture category only substantiates the ineptness of the Academy in segregating topnotch cinema from the heaps of mediocrity. The Master, like most of Anderson's movies, is not meant for everyone. A casual viewer is ought to be disappointed, for he may find it drab and utterly boring. But, The Master will most definitely succeed in satisfying the deepest cravings of an intelligent viewer. Highly recommended! 10/10
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Barky4431 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I don't even know where to begin. I think it's because this movie really has no sense of direction. It's like waking up in a fog bank: you don't really know where to go.

Yeah, it's a story of the beginning of a cult, so it's not going to make much sense. I get it. But they go beyond that to make it a really bad movie. The big problem is they put the plot focus on the mentally unstable character Freddie Quall, played by Joaquin Phoenix. The problem with Quall is he's not really disturbing (which could be fascinating, see Hannibal Lecter), but just disturbed. You can't make a movie surrounding a character like that! He's not "compelling", he's not "interesting", he's just sad. The writers made a terrible blunder by making this guy TOO disturbed, so disturbed you feel like you're staring at a homeless guy, trying to figure out when he's going to eat his own feces. That makes YOU the creepy one!

This, and other choices by the filmmakers, makes "The Master" a sloppy, unwatchable mess. Besides focusing too much on Quall's lunacy, it skips & jumps around and just when you think it's going to get interesting or deep they skip along to something else. Then it starts this homoerotic undercurrent and then just ... ends.

I wouldn't even call it a good allegory on Scientology or other cults. It is almost worthless in that regard, there's only a few moments that show the malicious intent of groups like this, but then they swoop back to Phoenix acting disturbed again. I suppose I could say Philip Seymour Hoffman does a good job playing cult leader Lancaster Dodd. I wish he was the actual focus of the movie, but for whatever reason, the filmmakers decided not to do that.

Regardless, we spent a good hour afterward complaining about how bad this movie was, and that ended up being the best part of it.
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boldsirbrian21 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Certainly the worst film I have seen this year and contender for the bottom 10 of all time, this was uninteresting, poorly directed and frankly rather annoying and pretentious. The acting was okay and could have been good if they hadn't had such poor direction. The music was intrusive, particularly at the beginning (you should never notice a good film score, but you couldn't escape from this one), the storyline was non-existent and the characters unsympathetic - a pretty lethal combination. When Phillip Seymour Hoffman started singing and all the females in the scene suddenly appeared naked, I just had to laugh and from then on, each idiotic new "sensational" set-up just made me laugh more. And it DRAGGED - the longest 137 minutes of my life. I would have walked out well before the end, but I was with my wife, who said the only reason she didn't walk out was that she wanted to see me suffer as payback for making her sit through "The Tree of Life", which oddly enough we both thought of as we endured this "Modern American Classic" - I suspect that the silliness on the beach brought it to mind. Why can't modern Directors (a) learn to edit properly and (b) entertain us? Appalling.
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A film half finished.
frezeframe16 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I would like to say that I mean no disrespect to Paul Thomas Anderson. His contribution of "Magnolia" and "There Will Be Blood" to the world of cinema have been more than enough to forever place him permanently on the top 100 greatest filmmakers of all time list. These two masterpieces also forever forgive him for making his one great stinker, "Punch Drunk Love."

Well, he made another stinker here with "The Master," make no mistake about it. Here's a few thoughts on this film (which I'll say is worth seeing, unlike Punch Drunk Love).

The acting is brilliant on all accounts. I think 90% of directing is casting, so PTA hit this one out of the park. All the other departments of the production were right on; but the most important department, the story portrayal, was just disregarded, almost offensively so. "The Master" is a great character piece. The actors did their homework. But the film is one giant character study- but with no coherent story.

There's no spoilers in this review, because there's nothing to spoil. So I can't even go into the details if I wanted to. This movie is about a series of subplots that meander into nothing- juxtaposed with random, unmotivated nudity, and intense scenes where Joaquin Phoenix either beats someone's ass or you think he's going to beat someone's ass. Paul Anderson spends roughly 55% of the screen time developing the character of Lancaster Dodd (P.S. Hoffman) as this great writer, persuasive teacher and potential cult leader (much like L.Ron Hubbard), and then... "ffffttt." The other 45% of the film is spent very deliberately developing the character Freddie Quell (J. Phoenix) as a tormented raging alcoholic and disillusioned Navy vet... which also leads nowhere. Dodd tries to mentor Quell who desperately needs help- and he doesn't really succeed. Phil Hoffman starts to get a cult like following, gets arrested for something unclear, and so does Phoenix for resisting Hoffman's arrest, then poof- they're both out of jail and nothing is explained. The two men separate briefly, and Hoffman winds up in Europe and asks Phoenix to join him there. Phoenix joins Hoffman. Hoffman warns Phoenix never to leave again. Then Phoenix leaves and winds up on the beach caressing a naked female sand castle (mirroring the first scene in the film where Phoenix is molesting a naked female sand castle). The film ends here. This is why I say it's a film half finished. Sure there was complexity and duality in the twisted past of Phoenix and the intelligence of Hoffman's character; but none of it matters, because there's no payoff for any journey the characters go on. At the end of the day, it was just about Hoffman mentoring Phoenix off and on, and the two men loving and hating each other. That's it. (The great Amy Adams was poorly used in the film- and doesn't deserve mention)

It's a familiar trend with Hollywood these days: The characters are fantastic but the story is unexplored and unmotivated. If PTA hadn't wrote and directed this, I would maybe give it a 4 or 5, as the casting was so strong. But a story-less movie can only be a maximum of 5 on my IMDb rating scale, even if Stanley Kubrick himself made it and sent it to us from the great beyond. This film had many great attempts at taking you on a journey, but always dropped the ball at every opportunity of beat, and started new, random, and unconnected threads that didn't mean anything.

I don't buy the "it's an art film" b.s... or the idea that it's s a "subjective piece" that should be interpreted differently for everyone. That's horse crap- and the people who wrote the 9 and 10 star reviews know it. They are just under the spell of Hoffman's tremendous stage presence. Because let's face it, without Hoffman, this film doesn't work. We all know the ability Paul Anderson has to tell a profoundly original story while still being surreal, and using music to motivate plot turns. The "Lets be surreal just for the sake of being surreal" method doesn't work for him. Sorry Paul, you're not a Warhol, Lynch, or Von Trier- why even try? The subjective 2001 Space Odyssey films have been made already. We're bored of people imitating that. (at least I am).

"The Master" is supposed to be based on John Huston's "Let their be Light" and loosely influenced by L. Ron Hubbard and the rise of Scientology, much like "Citizen Kane" was supposed to be about William Randolph Hearst. But try as it did, this was just a train wreck from the start. At no point did you get the feeling of a Scientology-esc uprising... or any kind of an uprising whatsoever. At least have the courage to show the cult rise to power- or come out and say that Hubbard was a frickin nut case. At least that would be saying something. This film says nothing. It keeps you guessing, and it's a huge let down when you realize the film is going to do the pretentious art thing and not explain anything.

I don't know guys. I would wait for Netflix or Redbox on this one. Unless you enjoy paying a lot of money to be bored in public, with a few hundred strangers, all pretending to be blown away by nothingness... constantly waiting for the genius character performance of Hoffman and Phoenix to be engaged in a story. Why tease yourself?
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Intense bizarre well acted but bad approach
phd_travel28 January 2013
The subject matter is fascinating - a peek into the strange world of Scientology that we all know has many celebrities as members and hands out fliers near Times Square. The cast is top notch too.

Unfortunately, the approach and what is covered isn't good. A waste. Instead of having a straighforward illuminating story about a bizarre people, it chooses to go from the point of view of an alcoholic violent mumbling man played intensely by Joaquin Phoenix. This distracts from the impact of the story. The processing sessions are a bit too long but they do show us the weird mind games going on. The teachings could have been more clearly illustrated.

The acting is good - Philip Seymour Hoffman is masterful and commanding. Joaquin is believable but it's hard to understand him sometimes. Amy Adams is out of her usual sweet mode as the wife of the Master. She is quite subtle and good - both devoted and supportive.

Overall it was disappointing because it only showed us a rather unsatisfying look at the cult.
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Conquering the minds of the every-day people in order to achieve a self-nurtured and a self-visionary goal and attain true inner happiness and a state of pure content.
ishan-verma0322 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Firstly, not exactly sure If reading this review will reveal the plot, but yea, "SPOILER ALERT"

Starting-off, this film is about conquering the minds of the every-day people in order to achieve a self-nurtured and a self-visionary goal. The concept of following one man's dreams or belief for the hopes to achieve true inner happiness and a state of pure content.

Set in the Post-World War II, The main character Freddie Quell(Joaquin Phoenix) is an extremely dis-oriented human being with strange and uncommon thoughts and human-behavior. His style of thinking quite unique and compelling although he is unable to achieve any sort of goal in any manner considered small or big. This is where things change for him when he stumbles upon The Master Lancaster Dodd(Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd has the ability to read people by their behavioral tendencies and finds something uniquely special with Freddie. Dodd consciously or sub-consciously decides to alter/change/treat Freddie's mind & mechanism of thinking for what he considers would result in a more happier more for filled and satisfied way of spending a lifetime for Freddie.

Freddie, after going through varied kinds of hardships and even turmoil under the guidance of The Master eventually realizes that although he is in a manner recovering mentally, the idea of existing around Dodd and his (possibly misguided) theories may be his undoing and decides to leave and start anew.

Dodd's methods which involve a understanding one's super-natural* state of being, which links us to our past lives and our future and that our problems are a result of it originating billions of years ago are very effective for some reason and through his books he influences the minds of people in a deadly way for what he believes to be rightfully true. His methods do seem very questionable and objectionable. Although he has most of the people following him with absolute belief, the theory that he has engineered methods which can be applied to solve all the worlds problems is dangerously close to insanity & could do more harm in the longer run than good. An entire generation may resort to his teachings only to cause damage to their succeeding generation(s).

Watch this film closely and consider its teachings but also remember that we watch films to entertain our selves. So yea, Enjoy :)
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Disgustingly pretentious film with no story
PhilipVier7 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I was a bit sceptic before I decided to watch The Master. I had seen There Will Be Blood, which was also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and I did not like it. It was pretentious and the only reason people seemed to like it was because it was an unusual art house film. Unfortunately, The Master turned out to be even worse.

The film sort of follows a man called Freddie Quell played by Joaquin Phoenix. He comes into contact with Lancaster Dodd played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Dodd is a cult leader and Freddy Quell falls for his charms, and that's basically the whole plot. It's just Philip Seymour Hoffman spouting idiotic lines and Joaquin Phoenix acting like a mentally handicapped person. Occasionally, Phoenix's character leaves the cult for no apparent reason only to return a few scenes later. The only thing the movie seems intent on conveying is that cults are weird and dangerous. Because of this the characters are shallow, their motivations unclear, and no one seems to behave normally. To a lot of people this is seen as an intelligent story, but to me it's like something a mentally ill child would write.

Normally, in a film with a great cast but a weak story you can rely on good acting. Unfortunately, even that can't be enjoyed. Hoffman and Phoenix are good, and most of the supporting cast are reasonable. But if actors have to play characters with no purpose it's impossible to improve the quality of a film.

After watching this film I asked myself what I had learned. My answer was nothing. How is this a good film? What makes the story good? To a lot of people it's probably because it's just different than most films. The great Paul Thomas Anderson doesn't need to tell a proper story, he doesn't need to direct his actors so that they can give good performances. Mr Anderson can just shoot some clichéd scenes, while great actors just do some nonsense, and he will be praised by the critics. Well, I have had it with this pretentious rubbish. This is certainly one of the worst films I have ever seen and I think I will avoid Anderson's films from now on.
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Save your money
hrichards-487-57877126 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe it's just me, but I almost left in time to get my money back. My wife left early and was waiting for me in the lobby. Who could imagine casting Joaquin Phoenix as an "angry young man" (who now is brain-addled and a bit violent perhaps from the incredible concoctions he's been brewing and drinking). And who really wants to see what Grandma would look like full frontal nudity at a cocktail party? If you are anxious to see a slightly shorter version of "The Incredible Lightness of Being" with a bit sharper cinematography and snappier orchestration, then this film will be a delight for you. If, on the other hand, you fear a migraine from trying to piece together twisted plot lines, symbolic meaning, and tiresome allegories... you may want to save your money. This ordeal is a real "mind bender" and it hurts. I am aware of the "raves" a lot of critics are slathering on this piece of "art" and I suppose I'm just too shallow to "get it". I surrender!
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