The Master

WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The Master
Posted: 9/16/12 at 02:07pm
Prestige film season is upon us, and nothing will announce that fact more loudly than The Master. It has the best cinematography since The Tree of Life and I loved the score. As a technician Anderson is flawless.

Joaquin Phoenix is so freaking good; if this movie was Academy friendlier he would be the one to beat. The role requires a strong physical commitment, and a scene he has in a jail cell is proof that Phoenix went all in.

I'm not always a fan of PSH, but he's good here as a cult leader who offers Phoenix the promise of curing his troubles. Adams plays his wife, and though she has a small part she makes a strong impression.

Slight Spoiler
There is an awesome scene where Adams jerks off PSH into a sink while whispering ultimatums into his ear. Afterwards she grabs a hand towel and wipes her hand clean- VERY Oscar-baity, and I loved it!
End Slight Spoiler

Where the film comes up a little short is in the narrative. There's not a lot of plot, and I'm totally fine with a good character study, but this one is lacking emotional depth on the page. It's to Phoenix' credit and not Anderson's this movie is as good as it is. Magnolia and Boogie Nights are both better films as complete works, but this will go down as a strong entry in his filmography when all is said and done.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
MrMidwest
Broadway Legend
joined:2/8/05
The Master
Posted: 9/16/12 at 04:38pm
It definitely might be this year's Tree of Life as far as the polarized reactions go.


"This film is a chore. By now you probably know that it is kinda-sorta about Scientology and that Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd character is kinda-sorta L. Ron Hubbard, in that he heads a small cult of weirdos. Much of The Master is devoted to the "processing" of World War II veteran drifter Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) through Lancaster's pseudoscientific methods. The supposed goal is to "bring man back to his inherent state of perfect," but what we see is good, old-fashioned brainwashing that Anderson lets play out for minutes on end, necessary repetition and all."

http://www.gawker.com/5943086/there-will-be-dud-the-master

"That quality, again, is both a virtue and a fault: It's always a pleasure to see two meaty, conspicuously actorly performances given room to breathe on screen. But because a central dimension of those performances is their fundamental impenetrability (the actors always look like they're thinking something cogent and in character even if we can't discern precisely what it is), the film, to a distressing degree, remains itself woefully impenetrable. Had more authorial energy been expended establishing other points of entry into the world of the film beyond the psychology of its major players, The Master might still betray a convincing sense of inner depth and richness. But reduced to this level of relative austerity (by Anderson's standards), and with the minor gestures which make his films what they are stripped down and left lacking, The Master feels rather meager, a pale revision of a sensibility that until now served the director well."

http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/the-master/6501

"The gods who nurse this universe think little of mortals' cares. They sit in crowds on exclusive clouds and laugh at our love affairs. I might have had a real romance if they'd given me a chance. I loved him, but he didn't love me. I wanted him, but he didn't want me. Then the gods had a spree and indulged in another whim. Now he loves me, but I don't love him." - Cole Porter
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The Master
Posted: 9/16/12 at 05:02pm
I think the comparison to Tree of Life re: reactions is apt. Personally I connected to Tree of Life on an emotional level that I didn't find in The Master. As my friend said, "I really respected The Master, but it was so cold."

I think there's more middle ground with The Master though. People either loved or hated Tree of Life. I think it would be very, very difficult to watch The Master and not have respect for the performances even if you didn't like the movie.

I don't know how much the film is supposed to be a commentary on Scientology, but it definitely calls that to mind. Does anyone know if Anderson intended this or if it's more coincidence.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
MrMidwest
Broadway Legend
joined:2/8/05
The Master
Posted: 9/17/12 at 12:27pm
"Phoenix transcends acting. There’s never a moment of falseness or calculation in his performance, never a hint of anything but Freddie Quell in his eyes. The impulsiveness, the thick-headed qualty, the alcoholic daze are all documentary in their realness. I once worked with a high level functioning alcoholic, and the body language Phoenix brings - frail and pained yet always coiled for a fight - was like watching my old friend walk in front of me again. Phoenix has one lip snarled up and one eye squinted down, a strange mix of Popeye and Elvis, and his body is always folded over at the middle. He embodies physical discomfort, the constant dull hangover of the truly addled drunk.

In fact Phoenix’s performance is so good it almost goes past quality. This is the kind of performance where, if it were his first film, you would assume this is just what Joaquin Phoenix is like all the time. He’s like a subject PTA discovered and around whom he formed a movie, and that sort of true, deep in the bone marrow performance is sometimes the sort that glides right past us. We’re programmed to fall for big moments, huge gestures, capital A Acting, and that’s not what Phoenix does here. What he does in The Master is transform body and soul into Freddie Quell. It’s one of the all-time great movie performances, full stop."

http://badassdigest.com/2012/09/16/movie-review-the-master-is-a-sad-beautiful-love-story/
"The gods who nurse this universe think little of mortals' cares. They sit in crowds on exclusive clouds and laugh at our love affairs. I might have had a real romance if they'd given me a chance. I loved him, but he didn't love me. I wanted him, but he didn't want me. Then the gods had a spree and indulged in another whim. Now he loves me, but I don't love him." - Cole Porter
MrMidwest
Broadway Legend
joined:2/8/05
The Master
Posted: 9/18/12 at 03:54pm
"The gods who nurse this universe think little of mortals' cares. They sit in crowds on exclusive clouds and laugh at our love affairs. I might have had a real romance if they'd given me a chance. I loved him, but he didn't love me. I wanted him, but he didn't want me. Then the gods had a spree and indulged in another whim. Now he loves me, but I don't love him." - Cole Porter
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
The Master
Posted: 9/18/12 at 04:04pm

This is opening in Pittsburgh on Friday, which I'm a little brokenhearted about because I absolutely will not be able to resist going to see it immediately. I was hoping it wouldn't open for another week so that I'd be forced to see it in NYC, so that my first experience of it would be in 70mm.
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
The Master
Posted: 9/18/12 at 04:17pm
I read the initial post pondering aloud who PSH could refer to- WHO was getting a handy here? My disgust and disappointment could not be greater.

The fear of seeing Phillip Seymour Hoffman wanked into a nearby sink will keep me far, far away.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
The Master
Posted: 9/18/12 at 04:53pm

God damn it, Joe, if you're going to re-iterate the spoiler, please also post the word "spoiler."
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
The Master
Posted: 9/18/12 at 05:17pm
Truly, Growl, the thought of PSH making his "O Face" and messing Amy Adams paw has spoiled it ALL for me.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
The Master
Posted: 9/22/12 at 12:44pm
Saw this last night and thought it was absolutely stunning from beginning to end. I get the "cold" criticism, but I find it really hard to believe that a film featuring performances as intense as the ones Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are giving can be cold, to me the entire project is dripping with passion and raw energy. I actually was left completely cold by TREE OF LIFE so I had the opposite reaction.
Amy Adams is a genius, she gives a layered, surprising and incredibly deceptive performance. Her last scene is priceless, it might be the best performance of her career so far.
Hoffman hasn't been this committed to a role since THE SAVAGES (though he's obviously better in this). I had started to become really tired of his old bag of tricks, but here he uses certain things we've expected from him and turns them completely on the audience in the most complex, fascinating way.
Phoenix is giving not only a career-best performance, but a performance that I believe will be studied for years and years to come. And maybe I'm being naive but he has to win the Oscar, I can't imagine anyone else coming anywhere close to giving that kind of performance.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
strummergirl
Broadway Legend
joined:12/8/09
The Master
Posted: 9/22/12 at 10:43pm
Just saw it. Still soaking it in. It is indeed a very sexual film with Quill's libido on full display including a notably distracting song and dance performance by PSH at a party in Freddie's point of view. Very 1950s body types which of course got some people in the audience uncomfortable seeing so many different kinds of female forms in a scene that long. Freddie's level of alcoholism also got some gasps. A cocktail with paint thinner? Oh boy.

I sort of give credit to PTA just for showing something that we were taught was so unfathomable to expect from the so-called 'Greatest Generation'. But he doesn't generalize in his subverting. Freddie is a bizarre character who is never made into some societal anti-hero. There is definitely something wrong with him.

Phoenix is incredible but I understand why he and PSH have been tying at some film festivals. This is really an incredible match of two distinctly but equally off-beat actors. I've always loved Phoenix but I never really bought too much into PSH as anything more than a loud, bombast who won Heath Ledger's Oscar (in a film that seemed an effort to ruin everything associated with in Cold Blood). Here it is clear he plays the guy truly into 'The Cause' with not a lot of winking or nodding, far beyond just being a charlatan. He does want to lasso the dragon and the dragon is Phoenix. The scenes between the two of them make the film. Amy Adams is good as the cold believer who is skeptical of Freddie and Laura Dern also is good in her few scenes, but they can get a little lost in the shuffle.

The photography is gorgeous. I think my favorite part was when you had the transitions of rack focus going from seeing the boat then going Freddie Quill seeing the boat for the first time. Also, the scenes of Freddie's photography.

I loved Greenwood's score and also, of course, some of the musical choices in the film, non-diegetic and diegetic alike.

I definitely think the film is more character study than narrative, but I feel like the audience has two plausible places to go with the ending.

I hope the people who did the costumes, cinematography, score (especially when Greenwood was disqualified from his work in There Will Be Blood), and art direction are nominated in addition to the acting and direction of Paul Thomas Anderson.

I can see the cool feeling people get with the film but a character like Freddie is a bit hard to work into feeling warm and fuzzy about. You are explicitly introduced to his mind in the first moments of the film. He's a fiend but he is not Daniel Plainview either. There are moments of self-awareness by the film where Freddie kills the tension and unhappiness really mounting, the Doris Day quip as one example. I think the emotional depth issues stem from one guy with a Messianic complex who seems to build a reputation of lies and the other is an alcoholic who may or may not be insane (either hereditary or the war really screwing him up or entirely his alcoholism). There's not really a real normal person in their group who gets their say until the John Moore scene.


I definitely think the film is more character study than narrative, but I feel like the audience has two plausible places to go with the ending.

SPOILER ALERT: Is Freddie entering a state of going in circles (with the first and final scenes) with The Cause just as a footnote, and possibly with some majorly ignored mental health issues, or can he go to the 'next life'? Although he appeared to be up to his old tricks again he also seemed to actually be interested in who he was having sex with and when he was trying to see Doris again he seemed like the person he was in the pre-War period.

Also other SPOILERS:
Did the daughter and her husband leave 'The Cause'? Some time went by with Amy's character no longer pregnant and the son going from a skeptic not buying his father's BS to being knee deep in it. Amy's character mentioned 'DCF' or something and changed the subject.

Does anybody think that Freddie knowingly poisoned his co-worker (mentioning that he reminded him of his father) or was it just the guy could not handle his cocktail?

If Amy's getting nominated for an Oscar (which I think she should and will), I honestly wonder which scene is in the clip reel because he showiest scenes have her jerking off her husband (somebody in our audience openly recoiled at the discovery when she said the lines 'Do you cum for me?', apparently not realizing what she was doing this whole time) and reading porn all in a close-up to Freddie Quills. Probably something boring (in comparison to those two) like the dinner table scene.

There seemed to be some scenes missing that were in the trailers such as that one scene where Freddie's sanity seems to be in question, a nervous breakdown is mentioned. Pretty sure it was done by the Navy and not Lancaster (the questioner is never shown). That was notable because Phoenix was shot in close-up the entire time and in fact, that whole scene was the first teaser of the film. Some early media reports did mention stuff in the trailers were not in the final cut but the entirety of that scene not shown was surprising. I guess the logic was there were lots of showy scenes of Phoenix anyway or that the scene raised questions that why he was not placed in the looney bin already.

Updated On: 9/22/12 at 10:43 PM
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 08:58am
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 09:48am
I'm debating seeing this or END OF WATCH this morning....

WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 09:58am
Response to Strummergirl's SPOILER questions

I didn't think Freddie was up to his old tricks again at the end. I thought he was have a genuine interaction with the woman. I didn't even infer that he had given her one of his cocktails. He really seemed to find a peaceful, beautiful moment in his life.

We know that PSH and The Cause are phony, and Freddie became aware of that too (or at least with filled with major doubts). I think Freddie decided to put aside his doubts and continue to believe in The Cause because it was safer than believing in nothing, and honestly he functioned better as a human.

I don't think the daughter and her husband ever left The Cause. She was way too devoted to her father. They had a weird relationship (the daughter and her husband) that was never really explained. It felt more like an arranged marriage, but I couldn't figure out to what end.

Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
ErikJ972
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/03
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 11:18am
Continued Spoilers...

I think the daughter did leave the cause. I'm pretty sure Freddie asks about the daughter during the scene in England. If I remember right Amy Adam's response is that she is gone and considered "DNC". I took that to mean she was excommunicated from the family and the cause.

End Spoilers...
Did anyone get to see the film in 70mm? I was really glad I did. My only complaint was noticing a pronounced flicker during some of the really brightly lit scenes.
The theater I saw it in didn't have the best sound though. Only had speakers behind the screen which made some of JPs mumbled dialog hard to understand.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 11:24am
Spoilers-

I must have missed that Erik. I guess she did leave then. I liked that Anderson didn't overly develop the roles of the children. They certainly could have had much stronger storylines, but it was wise to leave them as mystery figures with uncertain motives. It strengthened our understanding of Freddie not being sure what exactly he was getting into.

I saw it in 70mm at Lincoln Sq. It was really beautiful and there weren't any sound issues there.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
ErikJ972
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/03
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 11:26am
I should have went there. I saw it at the City Cinemas in the East Village.
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 12:17pm

Ooh, thanks for the info on that, Whizzer and Erik. I'm planning to go again this coming weekend and assume it'll run at Lincoln Square for a few more weeks. I was planning to go to the Village, but now I will not.
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
joined:5/26/05
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 12:52pm
Yeah, and of course before noon it's half off at AMC theaters.
Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 02:36pm
I've found the last couple of PT Anderson movies kinda cold, though I'm not sure if that's a fault, really. (I guess that's exagerating things, but I admit I had that reaction--though no one else I know did--to Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood).

Still, the reaction overall seems to be a lot less divided than the previously mentioned Tree of Life. (I loved Tree of Life, but almost completely on an emotional level. I'll be curious to see the reception to Malick's new film--wow two films in 2 years from Malick?--To The Wonder, especially after many apparently laughed inapropriately throughout it in Venice). Metacritic has it beingrated very favourably (http://www.metacritic.com/movie/the-master), the only pan being from Rex Reed.

Growl got it completely right when he refered to him as AfterEight--I really don't know how the man is still reviewing movies, if he ever even was relevent, though I find his reviews perversely amusing to read. Although I'm now having trouble not thinking of a post op transgender version fo AfterEight looking like Raquel Welch...
strummergirl
Broadway Legend
joined:12/8/09
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 04:03pm
SPOILERS:
Yeah, I thought the fact he was behaving, drinking, but not in the completely desperate, degenerate way he did before, and acting like a regular person- making light of his past experiences referring to Lancaster's questioning- was a sign of a possible chaange.

But I thought it was interesting that the last scene of the sand molded into the female form felt like a reminder of the first few scenes. Is it back to stage one and can he just go on a different path, perhaps is the question?

I think Freddie just realized he was able to open up and talk to somebody who felt like a friend with Lancaster and The Cause than a professional but it worked to a point. His problem was his alcohol and other things that may have been from his genes or upbringing and Lancaster did very little to help him get better. Yes, he acted like an animal but Lancaster saw him as something greater and abstract rather than a human being who needed professional help.

I assumed the daughter left but in weird circumstances. Her marriage seemed like a sham and she was openly putting the moves on Freddie. I figured that was probably why she could have left and the son-in-law had no use in the organization after that despite seeming like a good soldier for The Cause. Good point about the children. I felt like the point was we looked at them the way Freddie did as a stranger.

Pretty certain my theater (in Albany, NY theater) had it in digital which felt like a cheat. I mean it did not deter the beauty of the film at all but all the hype about it in 65 shot on 70 mm and I see no cigarette burns, I got a little annoyed. Joaquin's dialogue just seemed to be incomprehensible for the fact he was playing a wicked drunk.

Updated On: 9/25/12 at 04:03 PM
strummergirl
Broadway Legend
joined:12/8/09
The Master
Posted: 9/24/12 at 04:06pm
Just like I suspected, there was a lot of deleted scenes in the promos. Some of the scenes cut are shocking in just their beauty.
What is not shown in the final cut
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
The Master
Posted: 9/25/12 at 06:59pm
A physically impressive piece of film making, but emotionally and psychologically uninvolving for me. Phoenix has so many "tricks" in this performance that I couldn't see the breathing, living individual underneath the "acting." Hoffman was more subtle, but still unclear as to his motivation, especially when it came to his attachment to Phoenix's character. And it felt like a very, very long movie indeed. The writer/director has a fondness for long takes that give weight to things that aren't inherently interesting: do we really need to watch Phoenix's character walk the entire length of the dock as he approaches Hoffman's boat? Why?
Roscoe
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
The Master
Posted: 9/30/12 at 10:53am
I saw the film yesterday, and enjoyed it a good deal, if "enjoyed" is the right word. I found it an involving experience, beautifully made and very well acted. Phoenix himself managed to walk that very thin line between believability and cartoonishness, he was always believable, even if I occasionally wished for some English language subtitles -- he was just plain unintelligible at times.

A very rich film, I think, one that I'm going to want to see again.

Wonkit -- I thought that particular long take did a lot to accentuate Quell's isolation, his alienation from life and from others. I was a little more bothered by that very long take in the department store, following the lovely woman in the mink coat but I did enjoy it when it eventually turns out she's an employee of the store, showing off the coat to customers and saying "only $49.95" -- everybody's working for somebody, everybody's got an agenda, everybody's got a master.
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/
ray-andallthatjazz86
Broadway Legend
joined:8/2/05
The Master
Posted: 9/30/12 at 11:32am
Roscoe, I had similar problems understanding Phoenix but the way I read it, he might be so brain damaged from taking paint thinner that it's affecting his language capabilities.
I can see the criticisms about long takes, they can be arbitrary and in some ways they can be more about a director showing off than about any relevance to the content. However, I thought in THE MASTER the long takes just added a certain kind of tension when they were used and in a lot of cases I thought they allowed the audience to take in the beautiful work that the actors are doing without much help from editing.
It's a film I can't stop thinking about or talking about, in my book, that's the sign of a classic.
"Some people can thrive and bloom living life in a living room, that's perfect for some people of one hundred and five. But I at least gotta try, when I think of all the sights that I gotta see, all the places I gotta play, all the things that I gotta be at"
Roscoe
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
The Master
Posted: 9/30/12 at 12:24pm
It's too early for me to call it a classic, but I've been thinking about it a lot, and can't wait to see it again, probably one night this week.

And if Mr. Greenwood's score doesn't get him a lot of recognition in the awards feeding frenzy, well, it'll just be all too goddamn typical.
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/

1
Page: